Public Supports Private Sector Options in Medicare

The Galen Institute today released an opinion poll conducted June 18-21 by Zogby International that shows overwhelming public support for private sector options in Medicare along with concern that the complex drug benefit crafted by the Senate could be worse than the coverage many seniors now have.

“The poll suggests that voters would like the choice of private plans to provide overall health coverage in Medicare but are very skeptical about the impact of the free-standing drug benefit,” said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute.

“With Congress debating the largest entitlement expansion in Medicare’s history, it seemed important to ask the American people in some detail what they think about the choices before them,” Turner said. “This survey was done in real time while the issue is the focus of congressional and media attention.

“Those under age 65 are more interested in having a choice of health plans than those already on Medicare, but many seniors would like options as well,” Turner said.

Here are highlights of the in-depth nationwide telephone survey of 1,007 likely voters*:



  • 82% of all voters surveyed and 67% of seniors agree that “seniors should have the option of picking a private health plan approved by the Medicare program to provide their health benefits.”


  • The complex drug benefit being debated in the Senate was described to those with drug coverage to ask if it would be better than the coverage they have now; 74% of seniors said no, and only 16% said it would be better.


  • Of those seniors without drug coverage, 43% said they would be likely to buy the new policy (16% “very likely” and 27% “somewhat likely”).


  • 66% are worried that “a government-provided prescription drug benefit might mean that some people could lose their private health care coverage and become more dependent on government funding.”


  • 78% said “if the government gets into the business of providing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare?the government would eventually control what drugs are produced and developed.”


  • 54% of all of those surveyed would trust a private health plan to provide medical and drug benefits while only 34% say they would be more secure knowing the government was in charge. Seniors over age 65 were almost evenly split, with 43% picking government and 42%, private plans.


  • 78% said that “health plans should be able to negotiate with government to get a fair price” while 14% said “the government should decide how much to pay plans.”


  • 51% overall believe that choices of drugs would be limited “if the government were to provide a Medicare drug benefit;” 43% are confident their doctor would still be able to choose the right drug for them. 58% of seniors, however, believe their doctors would be in charge of choices.


  • 77% overall and 80% of seniors say that “seniors should have to pay something for their prescription drugs to keep the Medicare program from going broke and so the next generation of seniors does not become a greater burden on future taxpayers.” Only 18% overall and 15% of seniors said that they should be entitled to all the drugs they need, “even if it puts serious financial strains on the Medicare program.”


  • If Congress must choose, 54% of voters said it’s more important to pass “a more generous prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors who don’t have any coverage now” than a plan that “provides some drug coverage for everyone, regardless of income” (42%).


  • 56% of seniors said it was more important to have protection from larger drug bills while 37% said it was more important to have help with “everyday expected drug costs.”


  • Seniors also were asked if they would support a plan that provided $600 on a drug card for lower income seniors, with protection from large drug expenses starting at $2,000. 75% supported such a plan.


  • Voters were evenly split – 44% to 44% – over whether the federal government or private health plans “would do a better job of getting lower prices on prescription drugs for seniors.”


  • 49% said it is “more important for drug companies to continue to do research on new cures for the future” while 40% said it is “more important for drug companies to lower the costs of the drugs they already have developed.”


  • About half (48%) of seniors are worried that they or someone in their family will have trouble getting a doctor or keeping a doctor because of Medicare payment cuts.


  • 51% said they would support increasing the age eligibility for Medicare to 66 or 67, while 48% disagreed. Those already over age 65 supported the change by an even wider 61-36% margin.

In addition to showing widespread skepticism about a government-provided drug benefit, the poll also reflects some of the confusion on Capitol Hill, particularly regarding the impact of price controls or administered pricing.

For example, voters were evenly split over whether the federal government or private health plans “would do a better job of getting lower prices on prescription drugs for seniors.” However, the survey shows that voters are concerned that if the government gets into the business of providing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare, it would eventually control what drugs are produced and developed. “This would be a particular concern with the ‘fall-back’ drug benefit plan in the in the Senate bill,” Turner said.

Further, voters seem much more inclined to opt for private sector plans if they are approved by Medicare” (82%) than when that protection is not provided (54%). Younger voters are much more inclined than seniors to be interested in a private sector option for Medicare. “This suggests that Congress should seriously consider laying the foundation now for a competitive model Medicare program that will be in place and ready for the influx of Baby Boomers beginning in eight years,” Turner said.

*The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.2% and slightly higher for sub-samples. The full survey report is available at www.galen.org

The Galen Institute is a not-for-profit, free-market research organization devoted exclusively to health policy. It was founded in 1995 by Grace-Marie Turner to promote a more informed public debate over individual freedom, consumer choice, competition, and diversity in the health sector.

To read the full report, “Medicare vs. Private Health Care Plans,” click here.

For more information, please contact
Grace-Marie Turner
President, Galen Institute
(703) 299-8900
gracemarie@galen.org
www.galen.org

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author

The Galen Institute today released an opinion poll conducted June 18-21 by Zogby International that shows overwhelming public support for private sector options in Medicare along with concern that the complex drug benefit crafted by the Senate could be worse than the coverage many seniors now have.

“The poll suggests that voters would like the choice of private plans to provide overall health coverage in Medicare but are very skeptical about the impact of the free-standing drug benefit,” said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute.

“With Congress debating the largest entitlement expansion in Medicare’s history, it seemed important to ask the American people in some detail what they think about the choices before them,” Turner said. “This survey was done in real time while the issue is the focus of congressional and media attention.

“Those under age 65 are more interested in having a choice of health plans than those already on Medicare, but many seniors would like options as well,” Turner said.

Here are highlights of the in-depth nationwide telephone survey of 1,007 likely voters*:



  • 82% of all voters surveyed and 67% of seniors agree that “seniors should have the option of picking a private health plan approved by the Medicare program to provide their health benefits.”


  • The complex drug benefit being debated in the Senate was described to those with drug coverage to ask if it would be better than the coverage they have now; 74% of seniors said no, and only 16% said it would be better.


  • Of those seniors without drug coverage, 43% said they would be likely to buy the new policy (16% “very likely” and 27% “somewhat likely”).


  • 66% are worried that “a government-provided prescription drug benefit might mean that some people could lose their private health care coverage and become more dependent on government funding.”


  • 78% said “if the government gets into the business of providing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare?the government would eventually control what drugs are produced and developed.”


  • 54% of all of those surveyed would trust a private health plan to provide medical and drug benefits while only 34% say they would be more secure knowing the government was in charge. Seniors over age 65 were almost evenly split, with 43% picking government and 42%, private plans.


  • 78% said that “health plans should be able to negotiate with government to get a fair price” while 14% said “the government should decide how much to pay plans.”


  • 51% overall believe that choices of drugs would be limited “if the government were to provide a Medicare drug benefit;” 43% are confident their doctor would still be able to choose the right drug for them. 58% of seniors, however, believe their doctors would be in charge of choices.


  • 77% overall and 80% of seniors say that “seniors should have to pay something for their prescription drugs to keep the Medicare program from going broke and so the next generation of seniors does not become a greater burden on future taxpayers.” Only 18% overall and 15% of seniors said that they should be entitled to all the drugs they need, “even if it puts serious financial strains on the Medicare program.”


  • If Congress must choose, 54% of voters said it’s more important to pass “a more generous prescription drug benefit for low-income seniors who don’t have any coverage now” than a plan that “provides some drug coverage for everyone, regardless of income” (42%).


  • 56% of seniors said it was more important to have protection from larger drug bills while 37% said it was more important to have help with “everyday expected drug costs.”


  • Seniors also were asked if they would support a plan that provided $600 on a drug card for lower income seniors, with protection from large drug expenses starting at $2,000. 75% supported such a plan.


  • Voters were evenly split – 44% to 44% – over whether the federal government or private health plans “would do a better job of getting lower prices on prescription drugs for seniors.”


  • 49% said it is “more important for drug companies to continue to do research on new cures for the future” while 40% said it is “more important for drug companies to lower the costs of the drugs they already have developed.”


  • About half (48%) of seniors are worried that they or someone in their family will have trouble getting a doctor or keeping a doctor because of Medicare payment cuts.


  • 51% said they would support increasing the age eligibility for Medicare to 66 or 67, while 48% disagreed. Those already over age 65 supported the change by an even wider 61-36% margin.

In addition to showing widespread skepticism about a government-provided drug benefit, the poll also reflects some of the confusion on Capitol Hill, particularly regarding the impact of price controls or administered pricing.

For example, voters were evenly split over whether the federal government or private health plans “would do a better job of getting lower prices on prescription drugs for seniors.” However, the survey shows that voters are concerned that if the government gets into the business of providing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare, it would eventually control what drugs are produced and developed. “This would be a particular concern with the ‘fall-back’ drug benefit plan in the in the Senate bill,” Turner said.

Further, voters seem much more inclined to opt for private sector plans if they are approved by Medicare” (82%) than when that protection is not provided (54%). Younger voters are much more inclined than seniors to be interested in a private sector option for Medicare. “This suggests that Congress should seriously consider laying the foundation now for a competitive model Medicare program that will be in place and ready for the influx of Baby Boomers beginning in eight years,” Turner said.

*The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.2% and slightly higher for sub-samples. The full survey report is available at www.galen.org

The Galen Institute is a not-for-profit, free-market research organization devoted exclusively to health policy. It was founded in 1995 by Grace-Marie Turner to promote a more informed public debate over individual freedom, consumer choice, competition, and diversity in the health sector.

To read the full report, “Medicare vs. Private Health Care Plans,” click here.

For more information, please contact
Grace-Marie Turner
President, Galen Institute
(703) 299-8900
gracemarie@galen.org
www.galen.org

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

About the author