This past week, I reviewed polling data from 2011 showing how opposed the public was then to the conservative idea of cutting funding for the Medicare program and turning it into a fixed-amount voucher system that seniors would have to use to purchase private health insurance. I suggested the public was unlikely to be much friendlier to the idea this year.
This week we have new polling on the issue and, as expected, the public continues to support keeping Medicare as it is today. Let’s start with their general support for keeping Medicare (or Social Security) benefits as they are: By 51 percent to 33 percent in a new Pew poll, the public thinks this goal is more important than taking steps to reduce the budget deficit.
Moving on to the specific plan to turn Medicare into a voucher, the plan was tested by the recently releasedWashington Post/Kaiser poll. Respondents were given two choices: A) Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government guaranteeing all seniors the same set of health insurance benefits, or B) Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government guarantees each senior a fixed amount of money to help them purchase coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans. The public favored choice A, keeping Medicare the way it is today, by a strong 58-36 margin.
Conservatives will, of course, keeping pushing the idea, despite its manifest unpopularity. But these data suggest that no matter how much they try to disguise the plan and make its changes sound benign, they are likely to meet a wall of public skepticism.