By Lisa Zamosky
Americans love their Medicare. And despite the ongoing dust-up over the health reform law, for voters, the law takes a back seat to the government health insurance program for seniors as they consider who they’ll help elect president in November. That was the finding of a new poll out by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which asked voters about their views on a number of health policy issues.
Medicare is of particular relevance now, with Mitt Romney having chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) as his Vice Presidential running mate. Ryan has made a name for himself nationally with budget proposals that seek to reduce Medicare spending, in part by changing the program from a guaranteed benefit to one in which seniors would be given vouchers each year for a set dollar amount to buy Medicare coverage either through a private insurer or the traditional Medicare program.
The top economic concern among those surveyed was jobs. But both Medicare and the cost of healthcare came right behind with 73% of those surveyed claiming both issues were “extremely” or “very” important,” to them as they decide who they’ll choose for president in the next election. By contrast, 58% of voters say the healthcare law is important to their vote.
A Shared View Point
One of the more interesting findings of the survey is how in an age when Republican and Democratic politicians can’t agree on anything, voters from both parties see eye-to-eye when it comes to how politicians should handle Medicare.
According to the survey, a large majority of Republicans – 69% – say they’re opposed to reducing Medicare benefits, even if doing so would help to reduce the deficit; 60% favor benefit cuts targeted only at seniors with high incomes. Both views are consistent with those of Democratic voters.
And while 51% of voters reported that they didn’t understand what Governor Romney’s plans were for health care if he’s elected in November, 72% said they were clear about the direction President Obama is heading, and most say they have more trust in Obama to make the right decisions about the future of healthcare than Romney.
Finally, 55% of Republicans and 58% of all voters polled want Medicare to stay as a defined benefits program as opposed to one in which seniors get a fixed amount of money to buy coverage from either Medicare or a private plan.
That could spell trouble for Romney and Ryan, who are championing the defined benefit approach to reducing future Medicare costs, although not for today’s seniors. They propose such changes be put in place for people who today are younger than age 55.
Your turn: What issues are most important to you when deciding who to vote in as our next president? Are you concerned about the state of Medicare? Should it remain a guaranteed government benefit or should seniors be give a lump sum to shop on their own for coverage?
Let your voice be heard. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.