If Paul Ryan really believes what he said about his Medicare plan in this interview with a local Wisconsin TV station, then he is in total denial about how unpopular his proposal really is — and how much of a jam it created for his fellow Republicans:
“Those polls don’t describe it very well. When the plan is described accurately, it actually polls very well,” Ryan claims.
Hmm, or maybe this is just false. Let’s run through the evidence:
* In a recent Bloomberg poll, only 34 percent said they would be better off under the plan when it was described as a proposal to “replace traditional Medicare so that individuals buy their own private insurance with the help of government subsidies.” Fifty-seven percent said they would be worse off.
* In a recent CBS poll, only 31 percent said Medicare should “become a program that gives senior citizens payments towards the purchase of private insurance.” Fifty-eight percent said Medicare should continue as it is now.
* In a recent Pew poll, only 36 percent said they would favor changing Medicare into “a program that would give future participants a credit towards purchasing private health insurance coverage.” Forty-one percent opposed it.
* In a recent Washington Post poll, only 32 percent supported the plan when the question clarified that it would not impact people over 55. Forty-nine percent opposed it.
A recent New York Times poll did find that a plurality support Ryan’s plan, 47-41, but it used less descriptive language, describing it as a proposal to create a “program in which the government helps seniors purchase private health insurance.”
In reality, the polls that accurately describe Ryan’s plan almost all show woefully low support for it. What’s more, Republicans have in effect already acknowledged that they lost the larger argument over Medicare by beginning to attack Dems from the left on the issue. They are now accusing Democrats of being the ones who really want to cut Medicare, and have even accused Dems of wanting to “shred the social safety net.” And even Mitch McConnell has distanced himself from Ryan’s plan.
Here’s why this is relevant right now: Medicare is still at the center of the ongoing talks over the deficit, with Dems reportedly offering tens of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts in exchange for revenue increases. It’s unclear whether Dems are prepared to agree to significant cuts in Medicare benefits or any major cost shifting to seniors. If they get it into their heads that the public isn’t all that hostile to fundamentally transforming Medicare — as Ryan evidently wants them to do — they may be more willing to go that route, depriving themselves of a major political issue. But the evidence strongly suggests the public is indeed hostile to fundamentally transforming the popular entitlement program, even if Ryan has persuaded himself otherwise.