Don’t mess with Medicare!

PrexistingOverhaul Medicare? Restructure Medicaid? Not so fast, say those who receive medical care via those agencies.

In the wake of legislative stirrings about changing these signature government health organizations, the Kaiser Family Foundation asked members of the public what their preferences were: Keep the programs as they are, or tinker with them in hopes of improving their services?

Seven out of 10 said, “Don’t mess with Medicare benefits!” Another 26 percent favored revisiting the benefits package so that seniors would receive a fixed contribution toward the cost of health insurance. Apparently the other 4 percent lived in caves and didn’t know what the Kaiser folks were talking about.

The poll also showed strong public opposition (62 percent opposed) to altering the Medicaid format by converting it to a state block grant model. Another 32 percent favored the switch, and the final 6 percent just shrugged.

The support for Medicare in particular crossed political party lines, while Republicans much more strongly favored the Medicaid block grant proposal than did Democrats.

One change to Medicare that most respondents did support: letting the government negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices. On that question, 87 percent said “Yes, go for it!”

A slight majority — 58 percent — also favored increasing premiums for wealthy Medicare users, and 51 percent said they felt Medicare Advantage plan payments should be reduced.

Far fewer favored raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 (39 percent), raising premiums for all beneficiaries (31 percent), or increasing cost-sharing (24 percent).

Looking to the future, however, these respondents were realists. More than two-thirds (68 percent) said some changes will be necessary if Medicare is to be sustainable going forward.

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