Butter Wins Over Guns in the Minds of US Citizens KFF Harvard SPH

Americans have a clear message for the 113th Congress: I want my MTV, but I want my Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security,   health insurance subsidies, and public schools.

These budget-saving priorities are detailed in The Public’s Health Care Agenda for the 113th Congressconducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, published in January 2013.

The poll found that a majority of Americans placed creating health insurance exchanges/marketplaces at top priority, compared with other health priorities at the state level. More people support rather than oppose Medicaid expansion, heavily weighted toward 75% of Democrats, versus 46% of Independents and 27% of Republicans.

Two in 3 Americans want to see Congress act in the short-term on the Fiscal Cliff: importantly, this is a majority bipartisan issue where most Democrats, Independents and Republicans all agree on the urgency. However, just how to address the Fiscal Cliff varies across political parties. Republicans are more willing to cut programs across-the-board than Democrats.

The chart illustrates that most Americans prefer not to cut “butter” issues of education and health care versus “guns” issues such as national defense. Raising everyone’s taxes is opposed by majorities across parties.

In terms of specific Medicare spending cuts, the poll found that:

  • 85% of Americans favor requiring drug companies to give the federal government a better deal on medications for low-income people on Medicare
  • 59% believe in requiring only high income seniors to pay higher Medicare premiums
  • 48% like gradually raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 for future retirees
  • 46% favor reducing payments to hospitals and health providers for treating people on Medicare
  • 43% favor increasing payroll taxes workers and employers pay to fund Medicare
  • Only 13% require all seniors to pay higher Medicare premiums.

The survey polled 1,347 U.S. adults 18 and older by landline and cell phone in early January 2013, in English and Spanish.

Sally-Field-You-Like-MeHealth Populi’s Hot Points:  As I’ve been consuming awards show in this silly season of SAGs and Oscars, I’m reminded of Sally Field (not as her accurately dark embodiment of Mary Todd Lincoln but as herself, accepting the 1985 Academy Award for Places in the Heart), whom we might paraphrase on this poll by restating, “Americans like health reform, right now, they really like it!”

This poll attests, at this stage of American political economy and public opinion, that the majority of health citizens value health reform and the preservation of entitlements. The challenge over the next 2 years, before we get into the other silly season that’s the 2016 Presidential race and rhetoric, will be how to communicate the long-term deficit driver that health care is and how we must re-imagine health care delivery, personal financing (esp. taxes), and more rational consumption of health care services. The role of the health citizen’s personal responsibility is largely lost in the minds of Americans, based on this poll.

Ipsos Poll Healthcare as Priority Jan 13As a postscript, here’s a chart from Ipsos’s latest poll into Americans’ priorities, noting that healthcare is second only to unemployment and jobs.