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Medicare: Have seniors given any ground?

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In the wake of a U.S. credit rating downgrade and the subsequent stock-market volatility, a new poll checked public sentiment regarding Medicare to see if there has been any change. Have seniors relaxed their staunch opposition to cutting Medicare now that the country’s debt problems have had real-world implications?

In an interview with Kaiser Health News, Celinda Lake, president of polling group Lake Research Partners, explained that the Republican plan to switch Medicare to a voucher program raised the stakes and brought Medicare to the forefront of political issues. “It is the top-testing message in congressional races right now,” Lake said. “It has the potential to be the top voting issue in 2012.”

In particular, the provision that would cut Medicare 2 percent across the board if Congress’s so-called super-committee cannot agree on more specific cuts is not at all popular with poll respondents. “Voters really like their doctors. And the older you are, the more you like your doctors,” Lake explained. Seniors, she said, are concerned that their physicians may refuse to treat Medicare patients if cuts are enacted.

Looking ahead to the election, Lake described the type of voter who is likely to have the most impact: “It’s going to be independent women, particularly independent women over 50,” she said. And, “they are very, very adamant about Medicare.”

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