Government health benefits are a popular thing, and, as Medicare and Medicaid take center stage in the debate over a 2012 budget, Republicans may find it politically difficult to spend less on them.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a Republican budget plan today that would end those two programs as we know them. Medicare would be transformed into a voucher program, while Medicaid would become to a system of block-grants to states, which Ryan says will save a total of $1.12 trillion more than President Obama's budget proposal.
If voters think the proposed changes will take away benefits, they're not likely to be popular. At all.
A CBS poll this month showed respondents wanting to cut almost anything besides Medicare, as lawmakers and the president look to reduce spending:
A January poll showed respondents vastly preferred raising taxes to reducing Medicare benefits:
Republicans already face a challenge in Medicare politics, according to a February Kaiser Family Foundation poll, which showed 44 percent of respondents trusted Democrats "to do a better job of handling Medicare going forward," while only 30 percent trusted Republicans.
While Medicare benefits are clearly established as popular, pollsters don't usually ask about Medicaid. Its constituency is different, but also the same: Medicaid accounts for 40 percent of all nursing-home spending in the U.S., according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies (CMS). So, while Medicaid covers mostly poor people and children, older Americans have a large interest in it too.