Most seniors confident in Medicare’s futureNews added by Benefits Pro on November 6, 2012

Benefits Pro

Joined: September 07, 2011

By Kathryn Mayer

Though Medicare’s been a touchy election issue—and cause for concern for many—most seniors say they have strong confidence in the federally funded health insurance program.

An Extend Health survey of 1,140 seniors on Medicare revealed that 74 percent of respondents are “very” or “somewhat” confident that Medicare will be there for the rest of their lives—the highest level of confidence expressed since Extend Health began surveys on this question in December 2009.

That’s even significantly higher than just three months ago when 61 percent said they were “very” or “somewhat” confident in the program.

“Over time, we’ve watched seniors’ confidence in Medicare move up and down based on the nature of political debates and news headlines,” says Bryce Williams, founder of Extend Health and managing director of exchange solutions for Towers Watson. “Results from the current survey represent the sharpest increase in seniors’ confidence in Medicare since we initiated these surveys—a reflection perhaps of both presidential candidates’ strong messages that they are determined to protect Medicare for this generation of seniors.”

Though both President Obama and Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney see different futures for the Medicare, there’s no question it’s been a major talking point in both campaigns.

Obama wants to keep Medicare as is, though his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will slash $716 billion from the program over 10 years by cutting back on payments to providers and Medicare Advantage plans.

Romney supports turning the program into a “premium support” program that would give seniors a fixed payment to buy private insurance or a government plan similar to what currently exists. He believes that opening Medicare to the private market will increase competition, and thus cut costs.

Though Obama for months had an overwhelming lead on both health care and Medicare issues, the most Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows Obama’s lead is almost eradicated on Medicare. That same poll shows older voters are more likely to trust Romney than Obama on Medicare, 48 percent to 43 percent.

Extend Health, operator of the nation’s largest private Medicare exchange, fielded its survey Oct. 17–18. It was timed to gauge seniors’ confidence in Medicare after several months of intensive debate on the future of Medicare by both presidential candidates and their campaigns. Extend Health is a Towers Watson company.

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