Only a quarter of Americans surveyed support the most popular Republican strategy to overhaul the Medicare program, according to a report released last week.
The study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health also found that 43% of the respondents trust Democrats to fix Medicare, compared with 27% who trust Republicans to do that.
Only 26% of the respondents support moving Medicare to a defined- contribution program, a proposal Republicans put in the 1995 balanced-budget bill, which was vetoed by President Clinton.
The proposal is also under consideration by the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. That 17-member panel is scheduled to submit recommendations on a long-term Medicare fix to Congress next March.
Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the lack of public support for a radical overhaul of the system means the "likely outcomes are impasse, wait or a modest package. Without a much broader public debate, and even with that debate, the public is not yet ready to make hard choices."
"The policies that would save the most money, the public starts out decidedly opposed (to)," Altman said.
Other changes being considered by the commission also garnered weak support. Only 13% of those surveyed want to require seniors to pay a larger share of costs out of pocket. Thirty-four percent support raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65, while 47% support reducing payments to providers.
The survey found another bad sign for Medicare reformers. Only 20% of those surveyed, including only 24% of those over age 65, had heard of Medicare+Choice, the new Medicare structure created as part of last year's balanced-budget law.
The survey polled 1,909 adults between Aug. 14 and Sept. 20.