A new study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that nearly six in ten seniors would likely pay higher premiums for their Medicare benefits under a “premium-support” system. In a premium-support system, seniors would receive a voucher from the government to buy an insurance plan on the market. They would theoretically be able to choose between competing private plans and traditional Medicare.

The study suggests that seniors who remain in the traditional Medicare system will pay more, with an annual increase of about $720, while those who opt for a private plan will be unable to cover the cost of the benefits they currently receive under Medicare with their voucher. This could force 25 million Americans to pay more under a premium-support plan for their current benefits. Analysts warn that private insurance companies competing for the healthiest (and least costly) patients will leave the sick seniors in the traditional Medicare system, straining it and ultimately collapsing the public program.

Earlier this year, the AARP made their stance on the issue of a premium-support system clear when they released a statement saying that it “simply risks increasing costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare’s promise of secure health coverage — a guarantee that future seniors have contributed to through a lifetime of hard work.”

The model used by the foundation was “generally based on an approach included in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan, the proposal Chairman Ryan co-sponsored with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.” Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney “has supported a premium-support system along these lines,” and has selected House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 Presidential election.

In a CNN Op-Ed posted today, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the Romney/Ryan plan a “blueprint for the eventual destruction of Medicare as we know it.” She went on to say, “voters, be aware this year: Medicare is on the ballot, and its future is in jeopardy. Democrats created Medicare and will always fight to strengthen it for our seniors and for their families.”

Media Resources: Kaiser Family Foundation 10/15/2012; ThinkProgress 10/15/2012; CNN 10/16/2012; AARP 4/27/2012