Healthcare Business News

Most Americans like Medicare just the way it is: survey

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: March 1, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

About 70% of Americans say they favor the Medicare program as it exists today, while 25% say they would support a premium-support model in the federal healthcare program, according to a February survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Among those surveyed, 83% of Democrats said they want to keep Medicare as it is and 14% say they would support the change. That compares with 53% of Republicans who prefer the status quo and 39% who said they would like to see a premium-support model, which is the basis of a proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), as well as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Although the plans are not exactly the same, both include a system in which the federal government guarantees to each person with Medicare a fixed payment to buy health insurance. But the survey indicated that current debate on the contentious issue could sway opinion.

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“Arguments against moving toward a premium support system also hold the potential to move Americans in the opposite direction,” the survey noted. “For example, hearing that the change could give the insurance industry too much power, that there could be a cost shift onto seniors, and that ‘if this change is made, Medicare as we know it will no longer exist,' makes roughly one in 10 Americans less interested in this change, thus cutting the support roughly in half, from 25% to 9%-12%, after hearing negative comments.”

In considering how Medicare would affect their vote in the presidential election this year, 62% of Americans said a candidate's position on Medicare is only “one of many important factors,” while 23% said they would vote only for a candidate who shares their views on the program.

Meanwhile, the survey also asked questions about the contraception coverage provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and found that 63% of Americans say they support the requirement that health plans include no-cost birth control, while 33% oppose it.

“The public is also divided in their interpretation of what the debate is really about: a quarter say religious freedom (23%), a quarter say women's rights (24%), another quarter think it is a bit of both (26%), with the remainder not having heard anything on the subject,” the report said.

The tracking poll was conducted between Feb. 13-19 among a nationally representative random sample of 1,519 adults age 18 and older living in the U.S.

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