Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In Swing States, Obama Leads On Handling of Medicare

President Obama continues to lead Mitt Romney on the question of who would better handle Medicare in the crucial swing states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, recent polls of likely voters in all three states found. But as Election Day nears Mr. Romney has narrowed the gap in Florida and Virginia.

A series of Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls released this week found that while Mr. Romney still trails Mr. Obama on Medicare in all three states, he has made up ground in Florida and Virginia.

Mr. Romney had faced bigger gaps on handling Medicare in both states earlier this year after his choice of Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate focused attention on their plan to reshape Medicare for people under 55 so that they would be given fixed amounts of money in the future to buy private or public coverage.

In Florida 50 percent of likely voters favored Mr. Obama to handle Medicare in the latest poll while 44 percent favor ed Mr. Romney - a six percentage point lead for Mr. Obama, who had led on the issue by as much as 15 points last month. Mr. Obama now has a seven-point advantage on the issue in Virginia, down from 15 points last month. (In Ohio Mr. Obama retains an 11-point edge over Mr. Romney on Medicare.)

Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have called for curbing the growing costs of Medicare by making major changes to the program. Their plan would change Medicare for people who are now under 55 so that when they are eligible for coverage they would no longer receive a government-guaranteed, fee-for-service health plan but rather a fixed amount of money each year that they would use to purchase private health insurance or buy into a version of the existing Medicare program. But they have not provided enough details of their plan to assess how much it might increase out-of-pocket costs for future beneficiaries. Mr. Obama has pledged to preserve Medicare in its current form, but has spoken less about its rising costs.

Mr. Romney now beats Mr. Obama on the Medicare issue among voters who are over 65 in all three states.

Mr. Romney has made the misleading charge that Mr. Obama had “robbed” $716 billion from Medicare to pay for his health care plan. Mr. Obama does count on $716 billion in Medicare savings over the coming decade to help pay for his health care law, but they are largely in the form of reduced reimbursements to hospitals and insurers, not benefits for older Americans. Health care analysts say that repealing the savings - which Mr. Ryan has also counted on in one of his budget plans - would hasten the insolvency of one of the Medicare trust funds.

But on the question of Medicare Mr. Obama has the support of majorities of likely voters under 55 in all three states. Those voters could see Medicare reshaped by the time they are eligible for it under the proposal put forth by Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan.

The danger for Mr. Obama is th at Medicare tends to motivate older voters more than younger ones. Indeed, Medicare was named the No. 1 issue in the campaign by 20 percent of those over 65 in Florida - and by only 3 percent of those under 55.

The Times, in collaboration with Quinnipiac and CBS News, has tracked the presidential race with recurring polls in key battleground states. The three latest surveys, which were conducted Oct. 23 to 28 among likely voters on landlines and cellphones, are the final series in the project. The overall results in each state have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.