Survey: 60% of Americans support Medicare expansion strategies

A majority of the general public is in support of expanding Medicare — either by opening it up to all Americans or lowering the eligibility age, according to new survey results. But among current Medicare enrollees, nearly half want the program to stay as it is.

A majority of Americans favor expanding Medicare in some form, including 28% who say it should be expanded to cover all Americans, according to the results of new surveys conducted by eHealth, which operates online health insurance marketplaces.

The surveys were conducted between May 1 and May 13. They include more than 4,700 responses, of which 2,231 responses came from a general population audience sample, 2,575 from a Medicare beneficiaries sample and 26 from insurance industry representatives.

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Support for Medicare expansion is quite high, with 60% of general population respondents supporting wider eligibility criteria. Aside from the 28% who are in favor of “Medicare for All,” 18% are supportive of lowering the standard eligibility age to 60 from 65, and 14% say people aged 50 and older should be able to enroll in Medicare early if they pay extra.

But 47% of current Medicare enrollees say the program should stay as it is — primarily for people 65 and older. Only about 21% of enrollees say it should be expanded to cover all Americans and 13% favor lowering the eligibility age to 60.

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, 50% of the general population respondents say the temporary expansion of government-funded subsidies to lower the cost of coverage under the healthcare law should be made permanent. But around a third are still uncertain.

Automatic enrollment of the uninsured in ACA plans, on the other hand, does not have much support. Only 33% of the general public support automatic enrollment proposals, while 44% say they are opposed to them.

It is no secret that healthcare costs can be a source of severe stress for the American public. In many cases, insurance coverage is not adequate, with a third of general population respondents (33%) saying their top concern is paying their portion of the bill when they get medical care. Another 27% say they worry most about paying monthly premiums to keep coverage in effect.

Coverage type also plays a role. About 37% of those with ACA coverage cite premiums as their top concern, compared to 28% of those with employer-based coverage.

But this upcoming year may provide a break from rising premiums. About half (52%) of health insurers say they do not anticipate raising rates at all as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Around 39% say they do expect to raise rates due to the pandemic, but no more than 5%.

Further, a third of insurers say they are either very likely (4%) or somewhat likely (29%) to make changes to plan benefits because of the pandemic. Of these, 86% say any changes are likely to occur in their telehealth and mental health benefits.

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