My husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this
week. But it’s an anniversary that
pales in comparison to another — Medicaid’s. No one usually makes a fuss about a 46th anniversary. But
with the budget battle consuming Congress threatening to decimate a program
that Americans have paid into for when they need it the most, this one is worth
Stress, especially economic stress of the level we are
facing now as a nation, can unravel the strongest of relationships. So how do
American’s feel about our commitment to Medicaid? Do Americans feel Medicaid is fulfilling its mission? And do they feel the national
commitment we made four decades ago is still worthy of defending? Recent polls from respected
organizations reveal the answer is a strong “yes” to both questions – and where
that support comes from may surprise you.
To understand the country’s current feelings about
Medicaid, we should first start with why it was created. Medicaid and Medicare
share the same anniversary because they were envisioned by Lyndon Johnson as a
partnership. Where the intention of Medicare was to provide basic health care
coverage to seniors, Medicaid’s mission was to ensure frail seniors could get
long-term care, American’s with disabilities could live independently, and
those who without access to private coverage could get low-cost health
insurance. Medicaid’s mission was expanded in the 1980s to ensure children in
need can see a doctor when they get sick or need more serious attention.
In a Kaiser Health Tracking poll released this month, 86% of Americans said they would want minor reductions or no reductions at all to Medicaid in an effort to reduce the national deficit. Americans were much more willing to cut defense spending to address the deficit.
The most notable research on the nation’s opinion of
Medicaid came from Kaiser in May. That poll took a special look at Medicaid
issues and revealed Americans have little appetite for major alterations to
That might seem surprising in a cost-cutting atmosphere. But particularly today, most Americans
know someone who has needed the program and had a positive experience. Nearly
nine out of ten of respondents said their experience with the program had been
positive. Poll respondents were divided evenly between Republicans and
Democrats and still, a significant two-thirds majority stated that they like
knowing the program exists to help low-income Americans secure coverage, even
if many of the respondents themselves think they will never need it.
The attack on Medicaid has motivated many groups to
defend it–including a group of prominent faith leaders who were arrested in the
Capitol yesterday afternoon for protesting cuts to the program.
White House staff say the public’s support of Medicaid is
what led to the President’s direct reference to it as one of only two programs
he mentioned by name in his address to the nation earlier this week. It remains to be seen what the final
budget will hold, but key members in both houses seem to also be gaining a strong
understanding of the sentiment found in the polls and have themselves come out
with strong statements that Medicaid should not be used to solve the budget
Anniversaries are a time to reflect but also to take
stock of your joint values and priorities. Americans are saying they are as aligned, if not more
aligned, with Medicaid than ever.