July 7, 2011

Public Wants Changes in Entitlements, Not Changes in Benefits

Section 4: Views of Medicaid

In contrast to opinions about Medicare and Social Security, there are clear partisan differences in assessments of Medicaid. About three-quarters of the public (77%) say the program has been good for the country, but that percentage rises to 91% of Democrats and falls to 68% of Republicans; 75% of independents say it has been good for the country.

Ratings of how well Medicaid serves its constituents are considerably lower across the board (36% say it does an excellent or good job), with Democrats giving slightly better evaluations than Republicans and independents.

And while there is little partisan variation in the positive ratings for the program’s financial condition (about 15% of all groups say it is in excellent or good shape), both Republicans and independents are significantly more likely than Democrats to say the program is in poor fiscal shape (45% of Republicans and 42% of independents, compared with 26% of Democrats).

A deep partisan divide is evident in the current debate over state funding for the Medicaid program. Just 24% of Democrats would allow states to cut back on Medicaid eligibility in order to deal with their budget problems, while 73% say low income people should not lose their benefits. By contrast, a majority of Republicans (56%) say states should be able to cut their Medicaid rolls. More independents say lower income people should not lose their benefits than say states should be able to cut back on eligibility (58% vs. 38%).

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of lower-income Americans oppose allowing states to reduce Medicaid eligibility. Smaller majorities of middle-income (54%) and higher-income (51%) people take this position.

More than six-in-ten (64%) Republicans and Republican-leaners with family incomes of $75,000 or more say states should be able to cut their Medicaid eligibility rolls to deal with state budget problems; 56% of Republicans and leaners with incomes between $30,000 and $75,000 say the same. But among Republicans and leaners with annual incomes under $30,000, opinion is reversed: 61% say low-income people should not lose their Medicaid benefits and just 35% say states should be able to cut back on eligibility. By contrast, two-thirds or more of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning income groups say low-income people should not lose their benefits.