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Most Americans Oppose Republican Plan to Slash
Medicaid - Ultimate Senior Safety Net
(June 1, 2011) Note: The Republican plan to convert
Medicare to a voucher system to buy private insurance has received
considerable media attention. Not so well known is the GOP plan to slash
Medicaid, the ultimate safety net for millions of senior citizens unable
to care for themselves. This Kaiser News report was originally published
May 25, 2011
Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writer
Most Americans oppose the House Republicans’ plan
to overhaul and slash funding of Medicaid, the state-federal program
that covers 56 million low-income people, according to a
poll being released today.
About 60 percent of Americans want Congress to keep
Medicaid in its current form with the federal government guaranteeing
coverage and setting minimum benefits for states to follow, according to
the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Just over half said they
didn't want to see funds cut. (KHN is an editorially-independent program
of the foundation.)
Opinions varied along party lines, with 79 percent
of Democrats and 39 percent of Republicans saying they preferred to keep
the Medicaid structure "as is."
House Republicans in April voted to convert
Medicaid from an open-ended program in which the federal government pays
about 60 percent of the cost of services, into a federal
Each state would get a fixed sum of money and states
would have the freedom to decide who to cover and what services to
provide — an effort Republicans said would cut federal spending by $1
trillion over the next decade.
Under the GOP plan, Republican leaders said the
vote — which also included transforming Medicare into a voucher-style
program that would limit federal funding – showed that they were serious
about reining in spending and shrinking government.
Congressional Democrats oppose the Republicans'
plan and said it would lead to millions more people without health
insurance and the changes in Medicare would shift major costs to the
The GOP House plan has no chance of passing the
Democratic-led Senate. But Republicans hope some of their ideas could
advance as part of the talks between Vice President Joe Biden and
congressional leaders to get an agreement to lift the debt ceiling. It
could also play a role in the upcoming presidential campaign.
Medicaid is a federal-state partnership that mostly
covers low-income children and parents and disabled people. It also
covers two-thirds of nursing home residents.
The House plan would also repeal a Medicaid
coverage expansion to low-income adults included in the 2010 health law.
That provision is expected to add 16 million adults to Medicaid starting
The Kaiser telephone survey of 1,203 adults,
conducted May 12 through May 17, has a margin of error of 3 percentage
The poll found public support for Medicaid was
similar to that of Medicare and Social Security — two programs whose
longstanding public support has made them nearly untouchable by
Just 13 percent of Americans say they would support
major reductions in Medicaid spending as part of Congress’ efforts to
reduce the deficit, the Kaiser survey found. That compares to 10 percent
supporting major reductions in Medicare and Social Security.
Strong public support of Medicaid appears a
dividend of many Americans either receiving assistance from the program
or knowing a family member or friend who has. While 56 million Americans
are enrolled in Medicaid at one time, about 69 million are enrolled at
some point during the year as people go in and out of the program.
About half of respondents say they or a friend or
family member has received Medicaid, and a similar share say the program
is important to their family. Among the one in five respondents who
personally have been covered by Medicaid, 86 percent reported a "very"
or "somewhat" positive experience, the survey found.
"If you watch the debate about the deficit and
entitlements, you would think that almost everyone has a problem with
the Medicaid program and wants to change it, or cut it – or both,"
Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement released with
the poll. "The big surprise in this month’s tracking poll is that one
group who does not want to cut Medicaid is the American people."
Still, respondents acknowledged Medicaid has its
About a third of respondents who have been on
Medicaid say they have had problems finding a doctor. That compares with
13 percent of those currently covered by private insurance who say
they’ve had problems finding a physician who accepts their insurance.
The Kaiser Poll is not the first to find opposition
to cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
About 80 percent of registered voters, including 70
percent of tea party supporters, strongly oppose cutting the programs,
according to a poll conducted in April by McClatchy-Marist
A standard question on the monthly tracking poll is
opinion about the health law in general. The May survey found that 42
percent of respondents have a favorable opinion and 44 percent are
opposed, a statistically insignificant change from last month. Some who
are opposed want the law expanded, others want it repealed.
Seniors continue to be more skeptical than the
general public; 53 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion of the
law, 36 percent favor it and 11 percent said they didn't know or refused
to answer. In April, 45 percent of seniors disapproved, 31 percent
approved and 24 percent didn't know or refused to answer.
information was reprinted from
kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J.
Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser
Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up
for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All
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