Seniors mostly oppose a measure in the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution that would privatize Medicare by providing beneficiaries with fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance, while younger U.S. residents are divided on the idea, according to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The Kaiser poll was conducted from April 7 to April 12 across a random sample of 1,207 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Key Findings From KFF Poll
According to the poll, 62% of seniors said they want Medicare to remain unchanged, while 48% of respondents ages 18 to 39 said they are willing to consider the voucher option and 48% said they oppose it.
The poll also found:
- Around 67% of respondents are "very concerned" about federal budget shortfalls;
- 57% do not support cuts of any kind to Medicare to address the budget;
- About 63% of Democrats want Medicare to remain as it is;
- About 41% of Republicans favor the current Medicare program; and
- 55% of Republicans support the GOP proposal to overhaul the program, as described in the poll.
However, the poll also found that most U.S. residents are not familiar with the inner workings of the GOP budget plan, CQ HealthBeat reports. According to the findings:
- Just 12% of respondents said they understand the phrase "premium support," a term used to describe aspects of the plan;
- About 30% said they can define "voucher;"
- 36% said they had heard of vouchers before but could not explain them; and
- 32% said they had never before heard the term used to describe aspects of Medicare (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 4/27).
Ilene Stein, federal policy director of the Medicare Rights Center advocacy group, said residents must understand the proposal to assess its merit.
Stein said, "It's important that people understand what premium support, vouchers and defined contribution mean so that they understand the implications of those terms, which is often complicated and does not always fit into a 10-second sound bite" (DoBias, National Journal, 4/27).
According to Kaiser Health News, the survey shows that residents can be swayed in their opinions of the plan. When pollsters informed participants that changing Medicare to a voucher system would help reduce the deficit and provide seniors with plan choices based on cost and quality, support for the idea increased from 46% to 54%.
In addition, when pollsters told participants who said they supported the voucher system that it would give private insurers control over the program, limit seniors' benefits and increase their costs, those wanting Medicare to remain unchanged increased from 50% to 68% of respondents (Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, 4/27).
Gallup/USA Today Poll Finds Residents Split on Obama, Ryan Plans
A separate poll by Gallup/USA Today found that 44% of U.S. residents favor a deficit-reduction blueprint by President Obama, while 43% of respondents prefer a GOP plan, Politico reports. According to the poll, 14% of respondents said they have no opinion.
The poll was conducted April 20 through April 23 and surveyed 1,013 adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points (Epstein, Politico, 4/27).
Although Obama's proposal would cut $480 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, the president promised that his plan would preserve the programs (California Healthline, 4/22).
The Gallup/USA Today poll found:
- 53% of adults ages 18 to 29 favor Obama's plan, while 30% percent of younger adults support Ryan's proposal;
- 48% of adults older than age 65 prefer Ryan's plan, while 42% favor Obama's plan (Politico, 4/27);
- More than 80% of respondents identifying themselves as Democrats or Republicans prefer their own party's budget plan, while 42% of independents favor Obama's plan and 41% support Ryan's proposal (Muskal, Los Angeles Times, 4/27);
- 66% of respondents said they are concerned that Ryan's plan cuts too much from Medicare; and
- 71% of respondents said they are worried that Obama's plan does not do enough to reduce the deficit (Politico, 4/27).