WASHINGTON — More than seven in 10 Americans have heard of Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal to eliminate Medicare, and among them, those who oppose the idea outnumber supporters, according to a poll released Tuesday.The survey by the Pew Research Center found 72 percent of respondents were aware of Ryan’s plan to provide vouchers for the purchase of private health insurance, which the Wisconsin congressman has since revised. Of those who had heard of the proposal, 49 percent opposed it and 34 percent supported it.
The poll also shows that more respondents disapproved than approved of Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate. And they gave low grades to Democrat Joe Biden, the office’s current occupant.
House Republicans twice have approved legislation sponsored by Ryan to convert Medicare to a voucher program. The plan would rely on competition among private insurers to hold down health care costs. It would cut government spending by more than $5 trillion, reduce taxes for high earners, and balance the budget in 2040.
Ryan’s original plan did away with the traditional Medicare program entirely; he later agreed to continue a public option, albeit with limits on how much the government would spend. The current Medicare system would remain for everyone at least 55 years old. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who chose Ryan as his running mate, has said he would sign such a plan into law if it passed.
Ryan’s ascension to the national Republican ticket has increased the focus on Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly.
Republicans have criticized President Obama for reducing future Medicare payments by more than $700 billion in his health care law. The savings come from reduced payments to hospitals and private insurance companies offering more expensive Medicare Advantage plans, not from cutting benefits. Ryan would reduce Medicare spending by the same amount in his budget bill.
While current Medicare recipients wouldn’t be affected by the change to a voucher system, senior citizens were the strongest opponents of the Ryan proposal, according to the Pew poll. Among respondents 65 years of age and older, 55 percent opposed ending traditional Medicare, while 24 percent favored it. Those between 50 and 64 disapproved of it, 49 percent to 35 percent, and those between 18 and 49 were against it, 46 percent to 38 percent.