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 pro