Medicare Debate Has Yet to Take Hold Outside of WashingtonJuly 8, 2011
Resurgent Republic sponsored a series of focus groups in June in four battleground states: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado. We measured voter sentiments on the current state of the economy, increasing the debt ceiling, and the debate over Medicare. We also probed voter opinion regarding President Obama’s handling of the economy and whether voters believe President Obama has put forward the right policies to spur job growth.
Independent voters’ growing disapproval of President Obama’s policies has been well documented by Resurgent Republic dating back to April 2009. The majority of Independents in this focus group series represent a specific segment of swing voters: Independents who voted for Obama and still somewhat approve of his job performance. These voters comprise President Obama’s last line of electoral defense.
Of the 41 registered or self-identified Independents in our groups, 31 supported President Obama in 2008 and 26 approve of his job performance today while 12 disapprove and 3 are unsure. All are undecided on the 2012 generic presidential ballot. In addition to swing voters, this series included separate focus groups with Hispanics, Soft Republicans, Strong Republicans, and Tea Party voters.
There was little knowledge among voters of the current debate over Medicare taking place in Washington.
This is somewhat surprising, but underscores the prominence of the economy among voters and the lack of engagement of Independents nearly 18 months out from Election Day. Also when compared to discussing President Obama’s job performance or increasing the debt ceiling, the intensity among the Republican and Tea Party voters dissipated somewhat.
Yet voters know that Medicare is going bankrupt.
Participants were quick to acknowledge that Medicare will go bankrupt in a short number of years, even if there was little understanding of how Medicare is funded. Many respondents were not aware that Medicare is funded outside of payroll taxes and were surprised to learn that in the coming years more than half of Medicare funding will be borrowed from general revenues.
Participants were not aware that the new health care law imposes changes to Medicare.
This is not surprising given that Obamacare was not at the forefront among many of these swing voters. These voters, however, expressed concern after learning how President Obama’s health care law alters Medicare, such as cutting funding by $500 billion and creating the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). They believe the funding cuts would hasten Medicare’s financial problems. After a brief discussion, participants do not believe IPAB will enhance quality of care and will do more to interfere between patients and their doctors.
There is little consensus on the best way to make Medicare financially solvent for future generations.
Many participants were fixated that rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse would fix the challenges facing Medicare. The fact that 10,000 baby boomers are joining Medicare each day was new information to many respondents and highlighted the unsustainable trend in the years ahead.
After learning about the Republican plan to make Medicare financially solvent, respondents reacted positively to options that would increase their freedom in choosing the health care plan best suited for them. Yet respondents were skeptical that changes to Medicare would provide enough financial assistance, especially when compared to the plan Members of Congress receive.
The participants expressed genuine concern that the government would not cover enough costs in a premium-support system should insurance rates increase. The concept that competition would reduce overall costs and improve quality was not widely accepted. Many voters cited that competition among the health care industry today has not kept costs low.
Overall, the participants gave Republicans credit for putting forward a plan to make Medicare financially solvent.President Obama, however, is seen as not leading on this issue. Some participants believe he has not put forward a plan to fix Medicare, as required by law, due to political concerns.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA-08)
June 21, 2011
Independent Men (under 55) / Independent Women (under 55)
Conducted by The Tarrance Group
Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA-02)
June 23, 2011
Strong Republicans / Tea Party Voters
Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates
Orlando, Florida (FL-08)
June 29, 2011
Independent Men (55+) / Independent Women (55+)
Conducted by American Viewpoint
Denver, Colorado (Denver Suburbs)
June 30, 2011
Soft Republicans / Hispanics
Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies
Read the full report: Voters See No End in Sight to Economic Decline; Debt Ceiling Debate Galvanizes Opinions of President Obama's Job Performance.