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The future of Medicare plays big in the minds of American seniors, and is looming large as a campaign issue in the 2012 elections. That was the message delivered at a Wiener Center discussion Monday (April 9) by Robert Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis.
“It turns out that the voters who are turning out [at the polls] have very polarized views about health care,” said Blendon, who studies public opinion polling relating to health care policy. And those views, Blendon pointed out, in turn drive the political candidates to opposite sides of the spectrum on the issue, with Democrats perceived as the party defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Republicans seen as the party out to repeal it.
Yet while public opinion polls show that repealing the ACA is generally acceptable to most Americans, the polls also indicate that cutting back on Medicare and Social Security is not favored by a majority of citizens, and that is where, Blendon says, Republicans could be in trouble with senior voters this Fall.
"For those over 50 Medicare is more salient than other issues," Blendon said. "I think you have nervousness about overhauling a major program. There is a resistance to something that looks very large."
And the senior vote is crucial, Blendon suggested, because they turn out in higher numbers than younger voters and can often prove to be a swing vote in a close election.
"We have a policy for health care that focuses on this group, and they switch parties every few years," Blendon said.
Because of that, Blendon argued, it appears that any cuts to the Medicare program won't occur any time soon. But the ACA is another matter, he said, with Republicans prepared to ride the wave of public opinion against the law, particularly if they capture the White House in November.