New poll finds Medicare more important to voters than healthcare reform law

Medicare ranks first in voters' minds and considerably above President Obama's healthcare overhaul as Americans decide who they will support for president, according to a new poll.

The Affordable Care Act came in fifth on a list of healthcare issues polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, with about six in 10 calling the divisive 2010 law important to their vote.

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Medicare received top billing, meanwhile, with 73 percent saying it is either "extremely" or "very" important as they make their choice for president.

The finding comes as Medicare takes center stage in the race for the White House, eclipsing previous debates over the Affordable Care Act.

Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as a running mate means Ryan's proposals to partially privatize the major health entitlement are in the spotlight. The two parties have been picking fights on the issue since Ryan's vice-presidential debut.

According to the new Kaiser poll, 58 percent of voters say the 2010 healthcare law is important to their vote.

The issue ranked behind four other healthcare issues, the poll found: Medicare, Medicaid, the cost of health insurance and the need to provide coverage for the uninsured.

A slight majority (51 percent) also told Kaiser they do not understand Romney's proposals on healthcare, compared with 72 percent who say they grasp Obama's.

Medicare's significance to voters could spell trouble for the Romney-Ryan ticket in light of another recent polling figure.

According to a survey from Kaiser and The Washington Post, a strong majority of voters (58 percent) want Medicare to remain the way it is rather than see it partially privatized.

The figure comprised majorities in all political affiliations, including the GOP — 68 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans said Medicare should stay the same, not change according to the premium-support model advocated by Ryan.