Despite political wrangling, the public likes Medicaid and Medicare programs

In a tumultuous political landscape, Medicare and Medicaid have experienced both heartbreak and success, from the long-lasting drama between Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and the Obama administration over expanding Medicaid in the Sunshine State to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's (I) latest announcement that he'll expand the program over legislative objections. 

The public, on the other hand, is generally upbeat about the programs, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Although split along party lines, most understand the programs and say they have value. 

Public's view of the programs

Seventy-seven of those polled say Medicare is "very important," while 63 percent say the same about Medicaid. Yet while these programs appear popular among the public, KFF found varying differences among political lawmakers. About 9 in 10 Democrats and 7 in 10 Republicans say the Medicare program is very important. While 78 percent of Democrats believe Medicaid to be important, only 47 percent of Republicans share the same sentiment.

The survey notes that despite political discrepancies, the public is ambivalent about the federal government's role in making the healthcare system work. Four in 10 Americans believe that federal or state government should play no part in the healthcare system.

Public's knowledge of the programs

Seventy-two percent of the public understands that Medicare is a primary source of health insurance for eligible beneficiaries ages 65 and older, yet only 17 percent say that Medicaid is the primary source of insurance for this group. Additionally, about 65 percent understand that Medicaid is the primary source of insurance for low-income Americans, but 17 percent say that the program is Medicare and not Medicaid.

When asked which program pays for nursing and long-term care, only 36 percent correctly said Medicaid. Seventy-four percent know that Medicare is run by the federal government, while 57 percent are aware that Medicaid is a joint state and federal program.

Public's knowledge of Medicaid expansion

Nearly 62 percent of Americans know that some states have chosen to not expand Medicaid, the survey finds, while about 9 percent incorrectly believe that all states have expanded the program.

More than 4 in 10 Americans correctly know their state's expansion status, including 46 percent of those in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs and 42 percent of those in states that have expanded.

For more:
- here's the survey