Frist supporters doubtful on Medicare drug benefit

Passing the Medicare prescription drug bill is one of Sen. Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) most significant accomplishments as majority leader. But a lot of his supporters aren’t fond of it.

In an unusual move, Frist asked a series of questions on healthcare policies to people visiting one of his websites.

According to Frist’s Volunteer Political Action Committee’s (VolPAC) website, 44 percent of respondents think the Medicare prescription-drug benefit will not be successful. Only 18 percent said the program would work and 38 percent said there was not enough information.

Overall, only 20 percent of people rated Medicare itself as “good,” compared to 39 percent who called it “adequate” and 17 percent who chose “poor.”

The nine-question survey is unscientific and the sample size is small — about 125 respondents by the end of last week — but the skepticism about the drug-benefit among people presumably supportive of Frist could portend poorly for the Republicans who worked to bring about the benefit.

Frist earlier this year outlined his stand on stem-cell research, detailing a position at odds with President Bush and social conservatives. The VolPAC survey does not mention the stem-cell issue.

Calls to VolPAC staffers were not returned.

According to the VolPAC website, this survey is part of a regular feature called the Legislative Priorities Project. Using the website and direct-mail campaigns, VolPAC wants “to register the opinions of over 1,000,000 Americans,” the site declares.

Frist, a heart surgeon, also could be dismayed to learn that 57 percent of people surveyed think that doctors are overpaid.

Visitors to Frist’s website don’t seem to know much about the other massive federal healthcare program, Medicaid. The White House, the nation’s governors and key Republicans in Congress want to start a major overhaul of the program next year. They’ll have a lot of explaining to do to VolPAC survey respondents, 48 percent of whom said they did not have enough information to rate Medicaid. Most of the rest of them think the program already is “good” or “adequate.”

Frist, who is widely considered to be weighing a presidential campaign, will be able to find solace in some of the other responses, which more closely align with his healthcare policy views.

Asked whether they have too many choices in healthcare (a common complaint of seniors eyeing drug plans), the leading answer was “too few,” at 34 percent. Forty-three percent of respondents also agreed that the federal government should provide less healthcare than it now does.

The Hill completed the survey in order to obtain the results.