Democrats need to be not just holding the line on these programs, but talking about strengthening and expanding them. They need to be taking every opportunity to show just how destructive and extreme the Republican vision for these cherished programs is. Clearly, Democrats have a lot to gain by doing so since not even 50 percent of the population recognizes that contrast.
Medicare and Medicaid still hugely popular...
House Republicans are still making Medicare vouchers and Medicaid block grants their official policy goals, and they are still wildly out of step with public opinion on these two programs. With this month's 50th anniversary of these two programs, Kaiser Family Foundation has released its most recent survey about American attitudes toward them. They find that the programs are as important to and popular with Americans as ever, and that congressional Republicans' policies are supported only by a narrow band of fellow Republicans.
- Medicare is very important to 77 percent of people, with only Social Security ranked as more important (at 83 percent) and Medicaid is very important to 63 percent (tied roughly with student loans).
- Republicans identify these programs as either very important or important: 96 percent for Medicare, 86 percent for Medicaid. (Those numbers for Democrats are 99 percent and 97 percent, respectively.)
- Sixty percent say Medicare is an effective program (jumping to 75 percent for people actually Medicare) and 50 percent say Medicaid is effective (jumping to 65 percent of Medicaid recipients).
- Medicare is personally important to 76 percent of all people (and 71 percent of Republicans) and Medicaid to 51 percent to all (though only 35 percent of Republicans).
- The rhetoric of critics has taken a toll: more than half—54 percent—are concerned about Medicare's future.
This is where it gets interesting. "When asked about several specific proposals, this survey finds strong public support [upward of 88 percent] across age groups and party lines for allowing the federal government to negotiate lower prices with drug companies. About six in ten (58 percent) favor increasing Medicare premiums for wealthier seniors, but much fewer (31 percent) support increasing Medicare premiums for all seniors." What's really unpopular? A voucher system, which only gets 26 percent support. Only 31 percent of Republicans support vouchers! With Medicaid, only 32 percent of the general population supports the idea of block grants, though it rises to 50 percent with Republicans.