10 things to know about the public's view on Medicare, Medicaid

The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a "Medicare and Medicaid at 50" poll to gauge the public's view of the 50-year-old programs.

KFF polled a nationally representative sample of 1,849 American adults over the phone. Here are 10 key takeaways from the survey.

1. Americans view Medicare and Medicaid as important government programs. More Americans view Medicare as very important — 77 percent of respondents said it was very important — compared to Medicaid at 63 percent. Only Social Security topped Medicare in terms of government programs ranked very important (83 percent).

2. Medicare and Medicaid importance varies slightly based on political party affiliation. Democrats were more likely (89 percent) than Republicans (69 percent) to say Medicare was a very important public program. This variation was more pronounced in feelings toward Medicaid: 78 percent of Democrats said Medicaid is very important, compared to 47 percent of Republicans.

3. Medicare and Medicaid enrollees are more likely than others to say the programs are working well. Three-quarters of Medicare enrollees and about two-thirds of Medicaid enrollees feel the programs are working well, which is greater than the general public, of which 60 percent feel Medicare is working well and 50 percent feel Medicaid is working well. The survey also reported 91 percent of Medicare enrollees and 86 percent of Medicaid enrollees feel they have had positive experiences with the programs.

4. Stigma is not a major barrier to Medicaid enrollment. Of those respondents not covered by Medicaid, 85 percent said they would enroll in Medicaid if they were uninsured, needed healthcare and qualified for the program.

5. Many Americans are confused about Medicaid expansion. Of those surveyed in states that had expanded Medicaid, 42 percent were aware of their state's status, and of those who lived in states without Medicaid expansion, 46 percent were aware.

6. Cutting back Medicare or Medicaid spending is unpopular among most Americans. For Medicare, 41 percent are in favor of increasing spending and 43 percent would like to keep it the same. For Medicaid, 37 percent are in favor of increasing spending and 47 percent feel it should be kept the same. Only 8 percent felt Medicare spending should be decreased and 13 percent felt Medicaid spending should be decreased.

7. Most Americans feel changes will need to be made to Medicare to keep it sustainable in the future. Just 12 percent of respondents are very confident Medicare will continue to provide the same level of benefits in the future as it does today. Most (68 percent) felt changes need to be made to the Medicare program to keep it sustainable. Of those who feel change is needed, the group was split between making major changes vs. minor changes.

8. Americans would most like to change how the government negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to keep Medicare financially sustainable in the future. Across all age groups surveyed, respondents most favored changing Medicare so that the federal government is able to negotiate lower priced drugs for Medicare enrollees. The second most supported change was increasing Medicare premiums for wealthier enrollees.

9. Some Medicare and Medicaid enrollees reported problems affording healthcare costs. Outside of insurance premiums, 19 percent of Medicare enrollees had some problems paying for healthcare costs and 22 percent of Medicaid enrollees had difficulties.

10. Medicaid enrollees have more difficulty than Medicare or employer-sponsored plan enrollees finding providers, getting referrals or getting services covered. Of the Medicaid enrollees surveyed, 37 percent said they had had at least one of the following issues: finding a provider willing to accept their insurance, getting their insurance to pay for services or getting a referral or appointment to see a specialist. About half as many Medicare enrollees (18 percent) and employer-sponsored plan enrollees (20 percent) experienced these issues.

 

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