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However, younger boomers like RoxAnne Christley of Roanoke, Va., were more likely to be favorable.

“I think that’s a possibility if it brings choices and competition,” said Christley, 47. “We don’t need to stimulate the government; we need to stimulate the economy. A lot of people have different choices when it comes to medical coverage, and I see nothing wrong with that at all.” Christley is self-employed, counseling new mothers on breast feeding.

Changes that don’t involve a full-scale re-engineering of Medicare tended to draw more support in the poll, especially when the survey forced people to choose between giving up benefits or making some other kind of sacrifice.

For example, 61 percent of Americans overall favored raising Medicare taxes to avoid a cut in benefits. The current payroll tax is 2.9 percent on wages, evenly divided between workers and their employers. The new health care law added a surcharge of 0.9 percent on earnings over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples filing jointly.

When forced to choose, even a majority of Republicans said they would rather pay higher taxes (53 percent) than cut benefits (38 percent). Among adults in their 20s, who’d face a whole career paying higher taxes, 61 percent said they would be willing to pay more to preserve benefits. Only 29 percent of boomers said keep taxes the same but cut benefits.

“If people are forced to the wall and something has to be done about the financial shape of the program, they would rather take their medicine by raising taxes and moving the eligibility age than having the benefits cut when they retire,” said polling analyst Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health.

A narrower majority of Americans _ 54 percent _ also favored requiring people on Medicare to pay higher copayments and deductibles so that payments to doctors don’t have to be cut.

Support was surprisingly strong among seniors, 62 percent of whom said they’d be willing to pay more so that doctors’ fees don’t have to be cut and more doctors keep accepting Medicare payments.

“In its present form, Medicare will be insolvent before my grandkids get there,” said Fred Wemer, 73, a retired dentist from Seattle. He says Medicare’s biggest problem is that it rewards inefficiency by not paying doctors enough to keep people healthy and then paying for just about everything _ even botched procedures _ when patients get into trouble.

“We’ve got a discrepancy in how doctors are paid,” said Wemer. “Primary care doctors, the ones who listen to you, they’re underpaid. But specialists get paid way over what they’re worth.”

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Nov. 18-22, 2010, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 adults nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.