The other day, Politico reported that House Republicans had developed an elaborate plan to sell the new version of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, as a way to avoid the political debacle that greeted last year’s rendition. The new talking points instructed Republicans to stress the fact that Ryancare 2.0 gives seniors the choice of “staying in the current Medicare system or using the new one.”
With a vote on the new plan set for this week, a new National Journal poll suggests that this new pitch could also prove a tough sell:
Which of the following two options comes closer to your own view of what Medicare should look like in the future?
Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government providing health insurance and paying doctors and hospitals directly for the services they provide to seniors: 64 percent.
Medicare should be changed to a system where the government provides seniors with a fixed sum of money they could use either to purchase private health insurance or to pay the cost of remaining in the current Medicare program: 26 percent.
Even a majority of Republicans supports the current system, 56-30.
The question wording takes care to point out that seniors would have the option of “remaining in the current Medicare program.” Yet only 26 percent of Americans support it. The public’s verdict seems unambiguous: Don’t tamper with Medicare’s traditional mission.
Indeed, this is one area where the public sides overwhelmingly with Democrats, at a time when public opinion is still tilting against Obamacare. The same National Journal poll finds that the individual mandate is overwhelmingly opposed by Americans, 66-28; even a plurality of Democrats opposes it. Overall, 43 percent favor the law, versus 47 percent who oppose it.
On Medicare, Dems continue to remain confident that this is a battle that they can win — one that will help define the 2012 elections. The DCCC is circulating a Web video starring Martin Sheen arguing that Ryancare 2.0 would end Medicare as we know it.
Republicans, meanwhile, are circulating an internal poll showing that if the public is told that Ryancare 2.0 is "bipartisan,” necessary to prevent Medicare from going bankrupt, and preserves traditional Medicare as an option, a plurality supports it. But if the National Journal poll is to be believed, if you frame the question as a choice between leaving Medicare as it is and changing it into a new system — even one that preserves the option of remaining in the current program — the public overwhelmingly supports the former.
Update: Poll numbers on Obamacare fixed.