Who’s least supportive of expanding Medicare? Current beneficiaries.

A hand presents a Medicare card on a blue background in flat design style

February 20, 2024 – People currently on Medicare are some of the least supportive of proposals to expand the program, according to a new study.

The study found that much of the decrease in support happens right after or around when people go on Medicare, suggesting that they don’t want to share their benefits, according to co-author Nolan Kavanagh, a student in Harvard’s PhD program in health policy.

The study was published in a February 12 Research Letter in JAMA. Other co-authors included Adrianna McIntyre, assistant professor of health policy and politics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and MIT political scientist Andrea Campbell.

The study authors noted that while Medicare eligibility has been associated with increased opposition to Medicare cuts, little research had been done looking at how eligibility shapes support for program expansion. To learn more, they looked at data from 2018–2022 from a large national survey of political attitudes, the Cooperative Election Study.

Comparing attitudes about Medicare expansion among adults older than 65 with those younger than 65, the study found that older adults were less likely to support expanding Medicare to all Americans, offering a public option in the program, and lowering Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 50. They were modestly more supportive of allowing the government to negotiate drug prices, including for Medicare.

“These findings suggest that policymakers looking to expand Medicare should not count on beneficiaries to lend outsize support,” the authors wrote.

Read the study: Medicare Eligibility and Reported Support for Proposals to Expand Medicare