AARP Eye Center
Most U.S. adults are opposed to proposals that would cut into Medicare or Social Security benefits, and a majority support raising taxes on the nation’s highest earners to keep Medicare running as is.
The new findings, revealed in a March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, come as both safety net programs are poised to run out of enough cash to pay out full benefits within the next decade.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Few Americans would be OK with the ways some politicians have suggested shoring up the programs: 79 percent say they oppose reducing the size of Social Security benefits, and 67 percent are against raising monthly premiums for Medicare. About 65 million older and disabled people access government-sponsored health insurance through Medicare and rely on monthly payments from Social Security.
Instead, a majority — 58 percent — support the idea of paying for Medicare by increasing taxes on households making over $400,000 a year, a plan proposed by President Joe Biden last month.
Ninety-year-old Marilyn Robinson disagrees with nearly everything the Democratic leader says, but she thinks his plan to increase taxes on wealthy Americans to pay for the health care program’s future makes sense.
She doesn’t know anyone in her rural farming town of White Creek, New York, who makes that much money. Robinson, who has been on Medicare for the past 25 years, receives just $1,386 in Social Security and pension checks every month.
“I can survive on that much money,” she says. “But if you’re talking about $400,000, you’re just in another category. There’s nobody around here making money like that.”
That’s about the only change to the entitlement programs that most Americans say they would support.
One way or another, changes are in store for the programs. The annual Social Security and Medicare trustees report, released last Friday, warned that Medicare will only have enough cash to cover 89 percent of payments for inpatient hospital visits and nursing home stays by 2031. Just two years later, Social Security will only be able to pay 77 percent of benefits to retirees.
The poll found that many Americans have doubts about the stability of both programs. Only about 2 in 10 say they are very or extremely confident that the benefits from either program will be available to them when they need them, while about half have little or no confidence.
Republican and Democratic leaders have publicly promised not to cut benefits for Social Security or Medicare. Some Republicans, however, have floated the idea of raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare to keep the programs flush.
But a majority of Americans overwhelmingly reject that too. Three-quarters say they oppose raising the eligibility age for Social Security benefits from 67 to 70, and 7 in 10 oppose raising the eligibility age for Medicare benefits from 65 to 67.
More From AARP
Social Security Must Be Protected — and Kept Strong
AARP will defend your indispensable benefit
AARP's Helping Women Retire Securely
Income and savings gaps are real. Here's how we are fighting to help reduce them
CBO Report: Medicare Enrollees to Save Billions Under New Rx Law
Lower drug prices mean less need for medical care, government analyst projects