The public's attitude toward Medicaid remains positive despite the big impact the program is having on state budgets and lawmakers' frequent calls for reform, an opinion survey released Wednesday shows.
Nearly three-quarters of about 1,200 adults polled in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey say the nation's health insurance program for the poor is a "very important" government program, ranking it close to Social Security (88%) and Medicare (83%), equal to aid to public schools, and ahead of defense (57%) and foreign aid (20%).
Fifty-six percent of respondents reported some interaction with Medicaid -- either they were on the program themselves or knew a friend or family member on the program, said Mollyann Brodie, director of public opinion and media research for the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care research organization.
The public's view of Medicaid becomes relevant as lawmakers grapple with how to slow the growth of the program by $10 billion over the next five years. The survey showed that 44% of respondents preferred the federal government maintain the current level of spending for Medicaid, 36% preferred increasing federal spending, 12% wanted to cut federal spending, and 7% didn't know.
When respondents were asked about their state's budget problems, most respondents, 74%, cited Medicaid costs as a reason for those problems.
But when asked how the states should resolve those budget problems, the response was decidedly mixed with 24% saying that programs other than Medicaid should be cut -- such as education, transportation and prisons -- to 21% who said Medicaid should be cut. Another 21% said the state should raise taxes. The remaining 34% had other suggestions or didn't know.