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Little Support for GOP Plan to Privatize Medicare: Poll

NORWALK, Conn., June 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new poll finds little support for privatizing Medicare, even though most people agree the government-sponsored health insurance program for older Americans needs major changes if it is to survive.


Recently Medicare's trustees indicated that funding to run the Medicare program, which offers health insurance to an estimated 45 million Americans 65 and older, could run dry by 2024 unless substantial cost-costing steps are taken.  

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin unveiled a plan earlier this year to reform Medicare by setting up "vouchers" — subsidized by the federal government — that would enable senior citizens to purchase health insurance from private companies — hence "privatizing" the insurance.  The proposal has been criticized in many quarters.

According to today's Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll, slightly more than one in ten of the respondents supported the plan to privatize Medicare. Overwhelmingly, the respondents felt the program should be shored up, in part, by lowering the fees paid to drug companies, hospitals and doctors — and not by raising costs to consumers.

"While most people accept the argument that Medicare reform is necessary to keep it affordable, only a few people think that these changes should include privatizing Medicare, higher taxes or increases in out-of-pocket spending," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "Cutting the prices and fees paid to drug companies, hospitals and doctors are much more acceptable."

Added Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer service group that works for affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities: "The poll basically tracks what we hear on our phone lines: people with Medicare mistrust radical changes and they generally want the program to continue as it currently does with the government guaranteeing a set of benefits. They can't understand why the solution would be to make them pay more... [And] a lot of folks do understand that the main problem is not Medicare. It is high health-care costs."

Today's poll also found that opinions differed on specific solutions to revamp the ailing program. Specifically:

  • Two-thirds of those polled said cut prescription drug prices while 59 percent said wealthy seniors should shoulder more of the cost burden.
  • Forty-four percent said hospitals should get lower reimbursement fees from Medicare (28 percent were against this idea), and 40 percent said doctors should receive lower reimbursements (33 percent opposed this recommendation).
  • A smaller plurality said people should be charged more for treatments that aren't cost effective (37 percent for and 26 percent against).
  • But higher co-payments and deductibles were a non-starter among most of those polled, with 59 percent opposing increases in co-payments and deductibles (versus 18 percent in favor) and 50 percent opposing increases in taxes as Medicare costs rise (with 23 percent in favor).
  • The respondents were about equally split on how they felt about raising the age of eligibility for Medicare.

  • Age also played a role in the responses of those polled, with older people more likely to favor leaving Medicare as it is, meaning leaving "traditional" Medicare in place while also keeping the Medicare Advantage program that is provided by private insurance companies.

    The poll included 2,027 U.S. adults over age 18 who were surveyed online between May 31 to June 2, 2011, by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms, and HealthDay, a leading producer and syndicator of health news.

    The complete findings of the newest joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll are available here.  HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

    About HealthDayHealthDay, a division of Scout News LLC, is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is the largest syndicator of that news to Internet sites. Its consumer health news service ( appears on more than 5,000 Web sites such as Yahoo!, MSN Health, iVillage, US, hundreds of hospitals and hospital group websites, as well as print publication Web sites across the country. HealthDay also produces Physician's Briefing (, a news service for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals updated twice daily providing 15 articles a day across 32 medical specialties. HealthDay also provides custom content for major health portals. The newest addition to the HealthDay portfolio is HealthDay TV – a 90-second news broadcast of essential health information that appears on several major media websites, U.S. government Web sites and other health information sites.

    HealthDay Contact: 203 855 1400, ext. 106

    About Harris InteractiveHarris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit  TABLE 1AWARENESS OF DEBATE ABOUT FUTURE OF MEDICARE"How aware, if at all, are you of the recent discussion and debate about the future of Medicare?"Base: All Adults%Very aware


    23Somewhat aware

    41Not at all Aware

    19TABLE 2THOSE "VERY AWARE" OR "AWARE" – SOME DEMOGRAPHIC DIFFERENCES"How aware, if at all, are you of the recent discussion and debate about the future of Medicare?"All Who Are "Very Aware" or "Aware"41%Age8-2425-2930-3940-4950-645+








    35%Party IDRepublicanDemocratIndependent41%


    48%TABLE 3HOW MUCH CHANGE IS NECESSARY TO KEEP MEDICARE AFFORDABLE"As we look to the future, how much change, if any, do you think is necessary to keep the Medicare program affordable for the average American?"Base: All AdultsTotal%Political AffiliationRep.Dem.Ind.%%%A great deal








    30Not much




    4None at all




    2Not sure




    11Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to roundingTABLE 4AFAVOR/OPPOSE PROPOSAL FOR MEDICARE VOUCHER (NO SPONSOR MENTIONED)"One proposal to change the Medicare program is that the government would provide everyone who is eligible with a voucher they could use to buy their own policies from private health insurance companies.  Would you favor or oppose this idea?"Base: All Adults (Split Sample)Total%Political AffiliationRep.Dem.Ind.%%%Oppose








    26Not sure




    45TABLE 4BFAVOR/OPPOSE PROPOSAL FOR MEDICARE VOUCHER (WHEN DESCRIBED AS REPUBLICAN PROPOSAL)"The Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed to change the Medicare program so that the government would provide everyone who is eligible with a voucher that they could use to buy their own policies from private health insurance companies.  Would you favor or oppose this idea?"Base: All Adults (Split Sample)Total%Political AffiliationRep.Dem.Ind.%%%Oppose








    27Not sure




    37TABLE 5PREFERRED ROLES OF GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE INSURANCE IN MEDICARE PROGRAM"In general, which one of the following options do you think would be best for the American people?"Base:  All AdultsTotalPolitical AffiliationPeople Aged 50 and OverRep.Dem.Ind.50-6465+%%




    %The Medicare program we have now, where people can choose the government run program or a plan from a private health insurance company






    64A Medicare program solely run by private insurance companies






    13A Medicare program solely provided by government






    6Not sure






    17Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to roundingTABLE 6FAVOR/OPPOSE 8 PROPOSALS FOR SLOWING GROWTH OF MEDICARE SPENDING"Many experts believe that we will need to make some tough decisions to pay for, or at least slow down the rate of growth of Medicare costs in the future.  Would you favor or oppose each of the following proposals for doing this?"Base:  All AdultsFavorOpposeNot SureCutting the price paid for prescription drugs



    18Having people with higher incomes pay more for their Medicare benefits then people with lower incomes



    23Cutting the fees paid to hospitals



    27Cutting the fees paid to doctors



    27Raising the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 66 and then to 67 as the number of people this age increases



    25Using measures of cost-effectiveness to charge people more for services that are not as cost-effective



    38Increasing taxes as the Medicare costs Increase



    27Increasing co-pays and deductibles so that out-of-pocket costs will increase



    22Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to roundingMethodologyThis survey was conducted online within the United States May 31 to June 2, 2011 among 2,027 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.  

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    Full data available at  

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.  


    SOURCE Harris Interactive
    Copyright©2010 PR Newswire.
    All rights reserved

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