Harris Interactive/HealthDay 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.
According to the 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.