The American people love their Medicare and overwhelmingly oppose the idea of turning it into a voucher program or a premium support system. From the Kaiser Family Foundation poll:
In Kaiser’s February tracking survey, 70 percent of Americans say “Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits,” while 25 percent say “Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government would guarantee each senior a fixed amount of money to put toward health insurance. Seniors would purchase that coverage either from traditional Medicare or from a list of private health plans”. There is remarkable agreement on this issue by age, with at least two thirds in each age group supporting keeping Medicare as is. Even among Republicans, a narrow majority (53 percent) say they would prefer to keep Medicare as currently structured, rather than move toward a defined contribution model that offers the choice between traditional Medicare or a private plan. But, Republicans remain the most open to the change: 39 percent support this concept, compared to 24 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.
Not only is the original Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) plan to privatize Medicare, that most Congressional Republicans voted for, deeply unpopular but even the “compromise” plan Ryan later created with Senate Democrat Ron Wyden is also overwhelmingly opposed by the American people. The vast majority of Americans don’t want Medicare turned into a premium support system even if they still would have the option of choosing traditional Medicare.
Both the original Ryan voucher plan and the newer Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan are, in reality, fringe positions radically outside of the mainstream.
Currently, the Republican position on Medicare is a huge political vulnerability. If only Democratic leadership, instead of working for months to reach a grand bargain to cut Medicare benefits, spent that time defending the program that is one of the Democrats most popular and successful achievements of all time, Democrats wouldn’t be suffering from an enthusiasm gap right now.