Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan is once again in the news, especially the part of the plan that cuts funding for the Medicare program and turns it into a fixed-amount voucher that seniors would have to use to purchase private health insurance. Conservatives seem convinced that the public will warm to the plan this time around.
One might well ask: What are they smoking? Consider these data from the last time the plan was in the news.
First, take cutting Medicare. In an April 2011 Washington Post/ABC poll, 78 percent opposed cutting spending on Medicare “to reduce the national debt,” including 65 percent who were strongly opposed. This compares to just 21 percent who favored cutting the program.
As for turning Medicare into a fixed-amount voucher to be used to purchase private health insurance, 65 percent in the same poll preferred that the system remain the way it is. And that number rose to 84 percent when a follow-up query was posed stipulating that the value of the voucher would rise more slowly than the price of private health insurance (as the Congressional Budget Office projects will be the case).
Seniors in particular were unconvinced that changing Medicare in this manner was in their interests. In a May 2011 CNN poll, 58 percent thought they’d be worse off, compared to just 13 percent who thought they’d be better off.
What was that phrase about putting lipstick on a pig? It sure seems to apply here.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at both The Century Foundation and American Progress.