Public Support for New Medicare Law Eroding, Poll Finds
The new Medicare law "has generated more opposition than support" among beneficiaries and the general public, and the number of people who approve of the legislation has declined since last December, according to a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, USA Today reports. Although Republicans had hoped that passage of the law and the addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare would boost their political standing in an election year, ongoing criticism from Democrats and others seems to have eroded much of the original support for the law, according to USA Today. The survey says that 35% of respondents approve and 55% disapprove of how President Bush has handled Medicare (Welch, USA Today, 3/31). According to the survey of 1,001 adults taken Friday through Sunday, 41% of the public favors the new law, compared with 52% in December 2003. Among respondents ages 65 and older, 36% favor the new law, compared with 46% in December 2003. Overall, 40% of respondents believe that the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about the cost of the new law, compared with 46% who do not. Thirty-five percent of respondents believe the new law will help seniors who have problems paying for prescription drugs, while 20% believe it will hurt them and 30% believe it will not have much effect. Seventeen percent of respondents believe the law will help Medicare's future financial stability, while 27% believe the law will hurt it and 36% believe the law will not have much effect. Among respondents ages 65 and older, 16% believe they understand the changes to Medicare "very well," while 42% say they understand the changes "somewhat," 34% "not too well" and 7% "not at all" (USA Today graphic, 3/31).
Marilyn Moon, health program director of the American Institutes for Research, said that opposition to the law is growing because of "concerns that the drug benefit will be less generous than expected and that billions of dollars will go to insurers and drug makers," USA Today reports. "People are confused. Bumper-sticker health policy sells good on the first impression. The problem is in the details and how it's going to affect you," Robert Moffit, director of the Center for Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, said. Bill Pierce, a spokesperson for HHS, said the poll is "clear evidence of why we need to educate seniors." AARP Policy Director John Rother said, "There's very little knowledge of what the program actually delivers" (USA Today, 3/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.