Ezra Klein – Medicare was unpopular too but look at it now!
Ezra Klein says he’s been looking for polling data concerning Medicare prior to its passage to determine how popular it was at the time. If it wasn’t particularly popular, his obvious intent is to use that to make the argument that Democrats have a good chance of surviving a vote on this monstrosity by saying “but people love Medicare now”.
He finds that Greg Sargent has beaten him too the punch:
In a last-minute effort to stiffen Dem spines, senior Dem leadership aides are circulating among House Dems some polling numbers from the 1960s that underscore how controversial Medicare was in the months leading up to its historic passage.
Dem leadership staff is highlighting a series of numbers from 1962 on President John F. Kennedy’s proposal. In July of that year, a Gallup poll found 28% in favor, 24% viewing it unfavorably, and a sizable 33% with no opinion on it — showing an evenly divided public.
A month later, after JFK’s proposal went down, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said it should have been passed, while 37% supported its defeat — also showing an evenly divided public.
Also in that poll, a majority, 54%, said it was a serious problem that “government medical insurance for the aged would be a big step toward socialized medicine.”
After Lyndon Johnson was elected, a Harris poll found only a minority, 46%, supported a Federal plan to extend health care to the aged. Today, of course, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular.
That brings me to the most important question: is Medicare “overwhelmingly popular” or is Medicare “popular” because it is what seniors are stuck with? There’s a big difference there. Is Medicare what seniors would have if they had a choice? Of course there’s no way to determine that, but the popularity (and, as many claim, the necessity) of “Medigap” insurance to cover the obvious holes in coverage speak to a clientel which may be less enamored with the mandatory system than we think.
Much has been made of seniors concerned about losing their coverage – government coverage, for heaven sake! Supporters of the travesty now in Congress claim that senior’s fear of losing their coverage is driven by their satisfaction with it. Logically that’s a leap. When you have no choice in the matter and what you have is being threatened, you’re likely to want to at least keep that. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love it or you’re satisfied with it or you’d wish it on anyone else. At most, it just means it beats the unknown.