COLUMBIA – A statewide survey of South Carolina voters commissioned by Palmetto Policy Forum and conducted by Magellan Strategies reveals a divided and doubtful electorate on the issue of expanding Medicaid in South Carolina to include able-bodied adults up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. The survey was conducted April 30–May 1 with 940 likely general election voters and has a margin of error of +/-3.2%.
The rush to expand Medicaid under provisions of The Affordable Care Act in the face of waste, fraud and abuse is at the top of voter worries. Key survey findings include:
1. Among active voters, when given no further facts, Medicaid expansion is deadlocked at 44% favoring and 44% opposed to expansion with a large partisan split between Republicans (who oppose expansion by 75%) and Democrats (who support expansion by 81%). A strong plurality (45%) of independent voters opposes expansion.
2. A plurality of all voters (48%) believes that Medicaid is a “flawed program that wastes a lot of money, has problems of fraud and abuse, and is in severe need of reform.”
3. When presented with the wide variance in expert projections on the expected number of new enrollees, 45% of all voters oppose Medicaid expansion. Removing those who are Unsure or have No Opinion, a majority (52%) oppose expansion based on expert uncertainty over projected growth in enrollment.
4. When presented with specific cost estimates, 47% oppose Medicaid expansion. Again, removing those Unsure or with No Opinion, opposition rises to 56% based on estimated costs. While again, there is a deep divide between Republicans and Democrats on this issue, key swing voters think more like Republicans, with 75% of Republicans, 11% of Democrats and 51%of Independents opposing expansion over the question of cost.
In other survey results, a majority of voters polled found the following arguments opposing expansion “Very Convincing” (V/C) or “Somewhat Convincing” (S/C):
1. 73% (56% V/C, 17% S/C): “Medicaid should not be expanded until the waste, fraud, and abuse in the program is cleaned up.”
2. 69% (49% V/C, 20% S/C): “Because there is so much disagreement among experts on the costs of expanding Medicaid, we shouldn’t rush into any expansion until we have a better handle on the financial consequences.”
3. 62% (45% V/C,17% S/C): “We can’t count on the debt-ridden federal government’s contribution to South Carolina Medicaid to last forever, so in the future South Carolina taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for all the new Medicaid recipients added.”
4. 64% (44% V/C, 20% S/C): “Expanding Medicaid would allow too many able-bodied young people to get insurance, even if they just choose not to work to provide for their own healthcare needs.”
Commenting on the findings, Palmetto Policy Forum President Ellen Weaver said, “South Carolina voters are sending an unmistakable message to legislators not to rush into expanding Medicaid. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer, South Carolina – not Washington – will now make this critical decision. It must not be done with incomplete facts.”
She continued, “Voters are clearly concerned about making a deal with a debt-ridden federal government to expand a program that they believe is: 1.) Riddled with waste, and 2.) Likely to leave them on the hook to pick up more and more of the tab in the future. By taking time, South Carolina can better grasp the full impact of Obamacare and benefit from the experience of other states who choose to expand Medicaid or not.”
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