Pew Says Older Americans Highly Resistant to Medicare Changes, Ryan Plan

Survey in June 2011 found just 33% of senior citizens think Medicare needs major changes or to be completely rebuilt

Aug. 14, 2012 - Senior citizens do not like the idea of making changes to Medicare and only a handful think the program needs major changes, according to a commentary by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

In looking at the results of a Pew Research survey in May of 2011, the analysis says that seniors are not only "wary of changes," compared with younger people "they are more positive about the way the program operates, less apt to think that changes are needed and far less disposed towards Paul Ryan’s proposal to reshape Medicare."


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Senior citizens expressed a negative view of the Ryan plan to change Medicare. Pew found "51% opposed the plan (including 43% who opposed it strongly) compared with only 25% who favored the plan. People under the age of 50 offered far more support than those over 50 for Ryan’s Medicare plan."

They uncovered an interesting contrast in views of Medicare and Social Security between those age 65 and older versus those under 65. The vast majority of senior citizens (61%) said Medicare does and excellent or good job and 57% offered a similar view of Social Security. Those under 65 said the two programs do only a "fair or poor job."

"In addition, just 33% of those 65 and older said they think Medicare needs major changes or needs to be completely rebuilt. Similarly, few seniors (30%) supported major changes or a complete rebuilding of Social Security. Support for changing Social Security and Medicare was far higher among those under 65," reports the Pew analysis.

Some other notable highlights:

• Seniors most likely to say Social Security is a top "voting issue."

Pew adds, "A June 2012 survey found about as many senior voters saying Social Security is the issue that matters most to their vote (45%) as saying jobs (48%)."

• Seniors and younger voters "prioritize the protection of Medicare and Social Security benefits over deficit reduction by wide margins." Two-thirds (66%) of seniors said it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare as they are. Just (20%prioritized deficit reduction.

• Seniors (54%) also do not want low income people to lose Medicaid benefits. Just 34% said states should be able to decide who is eligible for Medicaid to deal with budget problems.

• Republicans and those leaning Republican are almost evenly split along income lines - those with incomes over $75,000 say it is important to reduce the deficit (63%), while those with incomes for $30,000 or less says it is more important to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits (62%)

• "Among Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party, 57% view deficit reduction as more important than preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are. Among Republicans and leaners who do not agree with the Tea Party, just 36% say that reducing the deficit is more important than maintaining benefits," the report states.

For the original of this report and updates, click here.

For more on entitlements see: “Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits,” released July 7, 2011 and section six of “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election,” released November 3, 2011.

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