The Stanford Center on Longevity’s Politics, Scholars and the Public program brings together political experts, academic scholars and members of the voting public to find workable solutions to societal challenges. The Center’s Health Security Project: The Views of 65+ Americans considered older Americans’ views on health care reform, including Medicare solvency and benefits.

In October 2009, the Center received generous funding from the Stephen Bechtel Fund for this project.

The Health Security Project: The Views of 65+ Americans reviewed communications to older voters by proponents and opponents of health care reform, and examined how older voters responded to this information. In 2009, older Americans were particularly outspoken about proposed reforms, and quite vocal in their concerns for their Medicare benefits.

Given frequent projections that Medicare will become insolvent by 2017, the project examined what can be learned from the arguments used in 2009 in order to suggest how health care reform might be explained in the future. The project also explored the 2010 political consequences of advocating additional reforms after the vigorous, partisan health care debates of 2009.

The project included the following efforts:

1. The Center completed a comprehensive review of the views of 65+ Americans and the health care reform efforts of 2009. This review included a compilation of the materials used to address this segment of voters by the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, members of Congress, advocacy organizations and others favoring and opposing reform, as well as media coverage of the response of 65+ voters. The Center prepared a report of these interactions, together with key written materials from the media.
Read report 

2. The Center gathered the views of a panel of Stanford University faculty experts regarding the reforms that they believe Medicare needs, now that comprehensive health care reform has become law. The experts framed these reforms as proposals to be vetted with voters ages 65 and older. These included suggestions such as the creation of an independent agency to sponsor and evaluate research on the comparative effectiveness of medical interventions. The experts’ views and the Center’s review and analysis will inform and help frame subsequent public opinion research. Read more

The Center then used survey research to learn what older Americans think about expert proposals. This research took place in two stages:

1. Substantive proposals for Medicare reform were tested and framed with two focus groups of older voters in Cleveland, Ohio. These sessions used advanced technologies providing interactive management and monitoring.
2. The Center then refined and framed the proposals for a telephone survey of 600 older voters. The survey found the following results:

Read Executive Summary >>>

3. The Center then disseminated the results of these surveys among Congressional leaders and the White House.

This research will help decision-makers better understand the views of 65+ voters in addressing such questions as:

  • What information do older voters need in order to support significant Medicare financing reforms?
  • How can information be conveyed accurately in a persuasive way?
  • How do voters assess the risks and costs of change versus the status quo?
  • What will help Medicare remain solvent without jeopardizing important benefits?
  • How can the increasing costs of the Medicare program be addressed while implementing more comprehensive health care reform?
  • How can Medicare solvency be addressed without damaging an economic recovery?
  • Is there any appetite for bipartisan solutions to this health care system challenge?