Medicare Reform: Not So Toxic After All?


As GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has caught up to President Obama in the national election polls, he's also narrowed the gap between himself and the president on health care issues. Obama still leads Romney on all health care questions asked in a new survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation: By at least five points, respondents still say they trust the president to do a better job on women's health issues, on determining the future of ObamaCare, on lowering the cost of health care, and on managing the future of Medicaid and Medicare.

But as Kaiser Health News points out, Obama's advantage on the Medicare question has shrunk dramatically in recent weeks. In September, Obama led Romney by 16 points. Now he leads his GOP rival by just five points, which is not a statistically significant difference in the poll.

This isn't exactly great news for Romney, who is still losing in all the polled categories. But it's not great news for Obama either. And it suggests that warnings about the impossibility of winning on an entitlement reform platform might be overstated. Maybe proposing to overhaul Medicare isn't as toxic to a presidential campaign as many once believed? 

KHN notes that polls show that voters still oppose Romney's (maddeningly vague) plan to transform Medicare into a voucher-style premium support system. And yet amongst seniors in the swing state of Florida, that hasn't been enough to turn support against the GOP candidate. As The Wall Street Journal reports, "polls now show Mr. Romney leading among the state's elderly voters by 6% to 12%—a sign he may be weathering reasonably well the charges by Democrats that he and running mate Paul Ryan would undermine Medicare. Among all voters in Florida, Mr. Romney leads Mr. Obama by an average of less than 2%."

There are a number of possible lessons to draw from this. One is that the GOP's frustrating attacks on Obama for reducing Medicare spending as part of ObamaCare might have worked. Another is that Medicare may be declining in salience as an issue. Another is that when voters decide they might like someone for president, there are carryover effects : As potential voters warm to the idea of Romney as president, they're also warming to the general idea of him making decisions about Medicare, even if they don't like the particular plan he's proposed.

But here's what I'd say the two most important takeaways are. First, proposing Medicare reform is not necessarily a campaign killer, even if the specific plan doesn't poll particularly well. It's even possible to win seniors in swing states by a pretty wide margin with such a plan. Second, public opinion can and does change, sometimes rapidly, about big issues like Medicare where many assume that opinions are intractable. Voters may not be ready to give the thumbs up to a premium-support style Medicare reform plan. But they just might be ready to vote for a president who has proposed one. 

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  1. Dr Zed? I want Dr Nick!

  2. Medicare sucks. It absolutely sucks. Anyone who’s had to deal with it knows that it sucks, and as more boomers get on it, reform, ANY reform, will become more welcome.

    1. Why does it suck? I’ve never been on it, but my father-in-law was. They, along with the supplement, just paid all of the bills. From his and my standpoint, it was really quite easy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have huge flaws, but my experience is that those flaws are hidden to the beneficiary.

  3. Fuck you and your Borderlands references, Suder-man. I was lucky to get 35 minutes to play it last night. I’m still only level 17. I need like a week off to finish the first playthrough.

    1. Have you considered a “disabbility leave”? They’re all the rage under Der Fuhrer, and you’d be able to get caught up on the game!


    2. I just got to level 41 in Skyrim last weekend. At this rate I figure I’ll get around to playing Borderlands sometime in 2014, then maybe the new Assasin’s Creed about the time when my Rand Paul for President bumper sticker comes in.

      1. I still haven’t upgraded my graphics card to the point that I can play my copy of Skyrim…

        1. You should stop being poor; it’s no fun.

          1. It’s not really poor in money, it’s more poor in time.

      2. SPOILER ALERT: At the end of Skyrim, the dragon dies.

        There, now you don’t need to finish it.

    3. Level 26. I killed Jack’s girlfriend after robbing her bank and blowing up her train. Pain in the you know what, but fairly satisfying.

      Some reports say a full playthrough takes close to 60 hours. Friends who have finished the game have done so around level 32-34.

      1. I just hit level 26 or 27 on B2. Like an idiot, I used my Golden Key as soon as I got it, although I’m still using one of the guns (a caustic submachine gun) that I got, so I guess that’s OK.

        I tend to hit side quests first, main quests last. I’m thinking I may do the Pirate Booty DLC next.

        If I have one gripe, its that levelling up really, really slows down as you go along.

        Thanks for the SPOILER warning, Pete.

        1. We all used our golden key too early, but it gave me a retarded machine gun that has been of great use to me, so I don’t care. We get one more so just save that until you’re high enough level. I’m doing the pirate DLC now; its drops are better than the main game so it makes sense. My coworker has already finished Playthrough 1, the bastard, and says it gets massively harder.

          1. it gets massively harder.

            I’m gonna need a bigger gun.

        2. Those long play RPGs are worse than heroin. You can waste weeks of your life on them.

    4. Everybody knows you should be playing XCOM:Enemy Unknown anyway.

      1. Is it any good?

        1. I like it. I usually get in a few missions when I feel like taking a break from Guild Wars 2. The only thing I don’t like about it is the way the graphics don’t truly represent the cover that you’re hiding behind.

          1. Does it still have the larger strategy aspect? Base building, research, black market equipment sales, etc.?

            1. Yes. That’s one of the other things I find mildly irritating. I have enough scientists to research everything I come across. I just never have enough engineers or money to buy them. I suppose I could go crazy on the gray market selling stuff but I always worry that I’m going to need it right after I do.

              1. I may have to buy it. Dammit, I’m never gonna finish Skyrim.

  4. Passing Obamacare was politically idiotic. Before Obamacare, Democrats could sell puppies and rainbows. Things would be great if they could just get what they wanted. They cared. And that gave them an advantage. With Obamacare they got what they wanted. Now they own the current system. They can’t sell puppies and rainbows anymore. They have to defend something they did. And that is not a good role for them.

    1. And not passing it would have been pretty easy to sell as the evil Republicans holding them back (if they just let a couple of Democrats defect).

      1. Let a few Dems from Red states kill it and tell the Left “we tried” and moved on. They were just fucking retarded.

        1. Look at those monsters! Not a single one of them voted for preventing an insurance company from ignoring this one sick women that Romney killed by shutting down that steel plant!

          1. They browbeat that moron Stupack into changing his vote. He could have saved them. Had Obamacare narrowly failed, no way would the 2010 mid terms gone as badly for Democrats as they did and Obama is probably comfortably ahead right now.

    2. You sure do like puppies and rainbows. And ponies. You talk about them a lot.

      Of course, now you’re going to think that I’m defending Obamacare just because I’m picking on you.

      1. And you don’t like puppies and rainbows? What the hell kind of communist deviated prevert are you?

        1. Puppies are disgusting compared to kittens, kitties are teh awesome. And rainbows, meh, they’re no Aurora.

          1. Commie cat lover.

            1. Better than a Socialist dog nanny.

  5. By at least five points, respondents still say they trust the president to do a better job on women’s health issues, on determining the future of ObamaCare, on lowering the cost of health care, and on managing the future of Medicaid and Medicare.

    When “women’s health issues” is read to mean “giving women free abortions and pills”, that directly contradicts “lowering the cost of healthcare”.

    Also, wtf does “determining the future of Obamacare” mean? By definition, either one will do that if elected. Is it supposed to mean “ensuring ObamaCare survives in its current form”? Same goes for ‘managing the future of Medicaid and Medicare”.

    1. What are you talking about? Free is the lowest cost you can get.

  6. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody has to pay for for it and, even if not immediately, that somebody is you. What goes around always comes around, eventually…

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