On Friday, Representative Paul Ryan's budget proposal won a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. All Democrats voted against the measure while only four Republicans voted "no". The proposal calls for the privatization of Medicare to cut the huge budget deficits the country faces.
Ryan said his budget measure included swapping guaranteed Medicare coverage for cash vouchers given for seniors, who would use them in the private health insurance market. His plan would keep the status quo for individuals who turn 55 years of age and up during this calendar year.
While the Republicans do not like the use of the word privatization and House Speaker John Boehner denied that the plan did any such thing, the American public appears not to like it no matter what label is given to it. In his address to the nation this week, President Barack Obama called Ryan's budget measure, as it relates to senior's health care, "ending Medicare as we know it."
In the past seven weeks two national polls asking the question three different ways, took the temperature of the public about cuts to the Medicare system. In all three surveys, the questions posed related the potential cuts to the program to the continuing fight over budget reduction. In majorities that range from 54% to 76%, poll subjects expressed their opposition.
The most recent poll taken on March 18 by CBS News asked 1.000 people, "In order to reduce the federal budget deficit, would you be willing or not willing to reduce spending on Medicare, the government health care program for seniors? Results: 76% not willing, 22% willing and 2% not sure.
In a poll sponsored by NBC and the Wall Street Journal asked 1,000 people in the period between February 24 and February 28, "Do you think it will be necessary to cut spending on Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, in order to significantly reduce the federal budget deficit. If you don't have an opinion, please just say, no" 54% no, 18% yes and 27% no opinion.
In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken during the same February period, the question was changed for that same 1,000 people:"Is significantly cutting funding for Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable or totally unacceptable", 76% either said "totally" or "mostly" unacceptable, 23% replied "totally" or "mostly" acceptable, with 2% being unsure.
The polls were taken before the latest headlines surrounding Rep. Ryan's budget proposal that doesn't require cuts to the program. It changes government support for seniors' health care from a government run medical insurance program, to one that writes checks, called vouchers that would put individuals in the same position as they were prior to reaching the age at which they qualify for the coupons. That particular position keeps them as customers of private health insurance companies.
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