Public To Budget Hawks: Don’t Touch My Medicare

Debate about Syria has pushed federal deficit talks to the back burner this month…but it won’t be long before we hear another plan to trim Medicare spending.  So politicians beware!  A special report in the New England Journal of Medicine says most Americans strongly disagree with experts who say Medicare is a major part of the federal budget deficit. And, this group of reliable voters say they’ll go to the polls to defeat candidates who support Medicare cuts.

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These conclusions are based on a poll out of the Harvard School of Public Health and an analysis of seven other national polls from earlier this year.  They show big differences between public opinion about Medicare’s budget and what we hear from experts.

First, most Americans believe Medicare is paid, in full, through payroll and premium contributions.  Wrong, say experts. The government pays $2 of every $3 spent on care.

Second, while experts say excessive tests, new drugs and technology are sinking Medicare, those polled blame poor management, fraud and excessive hospital charges.

And Americans do not support giving doctors a fixed payment and letting them manage money for a patient’s care, a cost-saving option backed by many experts.  63% of these respondents believe Medicare is already trying to save money by withholding treatment and prescriptions patients request.

It will be hard for politicians to try to correct or discuss public misperceptions about Medicare, says Robert Blendon, a co-author of the analysis and professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard School of Public Health.

But, says Blendon “if we’re going to resolve some of the Medicare issues in the future, there has to be a better understanding, otherwise many candidates are going to find themselves losing votes by talking stands that appear to be the right thing from an expert point of view.”

I wonder how these opinions among Medicare members are playing out in the doctor’s office? Anyone have a story to share?

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