Beneficiaries with Dual Sources of Medical Coverage

Recent Public Opinion Polls on Social Security

October 1998, Vol. 19, No. 10
Paperback, 16 pp.
PDF, 112 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 1998

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Executive Summary

Beneficiaries with Dual Sources of Medical Coverage—Medicare, the federal health care insurance program for the elderly and disabled, was significantly changed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) with the goal of putting its finances on solid ground. BBA's provisions are projected to save Medicare $115 billion through the year 2002 and $386 billion through the year 2007. Despite these savings, the Medicare Part A Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent by the year 2009, approximately two years before the post-World War II baby boom generation reaches the current Medicare eligibility age of 65. Consequently, Congress has established a bipartisan commission to study the long-term future of Medicare.

Recent Public Opinion Polls on Social Security—Faced with a looming deficit in the Social Security system, policymakers are once again considering major changes to the largest entitlement program in the federal government. The Social Security Administration estimates that, starting in 2013, the amount paid out in Social Security benefits will begin to exceed the amount collected in tax revenues. However, the trust fund will be able to cover benefits using past surpluses until 2032. Starting in 2032, if the system remains unchanged, it is projected to be able to cover only 73 percent of its annual expenses.

In recent years, many surveys have been conducted to assess the public's attitudes toward Social Security reform. One of them is the eighth annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the American Savings Education Council, and Matthew Greenwald and Associates. This article places the RCS findings in the context of other survey work in order to summarize what has become a sizable body of recent public opinion data. While the surveys vary in the types of questions asked, the population surveyed, and occasionally the responses received, they include several common themes.