Medicare and Social Security are government programs Americans especially like and don't want Washington to cut, even to tame the federal deficit, a new poll shows.
Six in 10 adults oppose scaling back the entitlements for seniors, according to a survey of 1,347 adults taken Jan. 3-9 and released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation,
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Three-quarters of Americans believe the nation can get its finances in order without touching the public safety nets, the numbers show.
The only other federal spending that survey respondents ranked higher on their don't-touch list was education funding.
Survey participants named three areas they are willing see trimmed: foreign aid, funding for the war in Afghanistan, and salaries and benefits for government workers.
The feeling that many Americans have for the Medicare program runs deeps, with four out of 10 poll participants calling it "very important" to their own families. Yet, Republicans in Congress, and even a few Democrats, see Medicare cuts as a way to balance the budget, leading to what Harvard professor Robert Blendon calls one of the biggest disconnects between the public and "official" Washington.
Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis, said feelings about Medicare are even stronger than the polls suggests.
“The people we’re surveying think you should close maybe eight to 10 of the major Cabinet offices before you get to cutting this program,” he said, a position that defies the general view on Capitol Hill among lawmakers that the program needs to be put "on the table" for cuts.
When asked about specific ways to save or trim Medicare, a majority of poll participants said they would support requiring drug companies to give the federal government a better deal on medications for poor seniors and requiring seniors to pay higher premiums.
But when asked about another proposal often mentioned on Capitol Hill, which is raising premiums for all beneficiaries, eight in 10 respondents said they were opposed.
If Congress really rolls up its sleeves to change Medicare, Blendon is sure that Americans will let their feelings be known.
“There’s going to be a huge political backlash,” he said. “This is not the audience for the French Revolution on Medicare.”
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