THURSDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older and disabled Americans, may be hurtling toward the critical list, but most people don't want to pay for needed reforms from their own wallets, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll finds.
Eighty-three percent of those polled believe changes are needed to keep Medicare affordable and sustainable, and 51 percent think that "a great deal of change" is necessary. But they'd rather not make any personal sacrifices, according to the poll.
"There's a clear majority who think there is a problem that needs to be addressed, but (people also believe) if the changes are going to cost me money in terms of higher co-pays, higher deductibles or higher taxes, no thank you," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll.
When people were presented with nine proposals for slowing the rate of Medicare spending, the poll revealed strong approval (72 percent) for cutting the price Medicare pays for prescription drugs to pharmaceutical companies, and modest support for trimming fees to hospitals (47 percent favor, 28 percent oppose) and doctors (41 percent to 35 percent).
Few favor higher taxes and out-of-pocket contributions, such as increased co-pays and deductibles. Fifty-three percent and 60 percent, respectively, oppose those options. But a majority said people with higher incomes should pay more for Medicare benefits than lower-income individuals (57 percent favor, 21 percent oppose).
Medicare, which serves 49 million older and disabled Americans, is under severe financial strain. More than 15 percent of the federal budget goes toward Medicare, and that's projected to increase to 17.5 percent by 2020 -- the third largest government expenditure after Social Security and defense, government statistics show.
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