As lawmakers scramble to prevent the economy from tumbling over the Fiscal Cliff, new polling data suggests that Americans are leery of exacting further cuts on Medicare and Medicaid.

 

According to a survey released early this week by the American Hospital Association, 69 percent of registered voters oppose cutting Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals. Even voters who ranked federal spending and the deficit among the most important issues facing the nation, 71 percent said they were opposed to cutting the health care programs. The results were consistent regardless of age and party affiliation.

On a call with reporters Wednesday, AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack said that the data "exposes a gap" between what policymakers are talking about and what the public may be willing to accept.

Similarly, in a CNBC poll, cutting Medicare ranked as the least acceptable option for addressing the deficit. Respondents were more willing to see income taxes rise.

The AHA poll also addressed the complicated evaluation and management issue. There are proposals in Washington to cut $1 billion by reducing E & M in hospital settings to the same rate as office-based physicians. When initially asked about the issue, 48 percent of respondents had no strong feelings. Pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey for the AHA, said that's expected. Few Americans are familiar with the nuances of Medicare reimbursement policy and aren't likely to formulate strong opinions one way or another during a brief survey call. Still, after being read arguments on both sides of the issue, 51 percent of respondents favored keeping the current system.

Click here to view the entire AHA survey.