Monday, September 14, 2009

73% of Physicians Support a Govt. Run Health Care Plan as an Option

Physicians’ Views on a New Public Insurance Option and Medicare Expansion

63% overall support public option and 10% support single payer = 73% support public plan.

The voices of physicians in the current debate have emanated almost exclusively from national physicians’ groups and societies. Like any special-interest group, these organizations claim to represent their members (and often nonmembers as well). The result is a well-established understanding of the interests of physicians’ societies but little, if any, understanding of views among physicians in general. Faced with this absence of empirical data, we conducted a national survey of physicians to inform federal policymakers about physicians’ views of proposed expansions of health care coverage.
Survey respondents were asked to indicate which of three options for expanding health insurance coverage they would most strongly support: public and private options, providing people younger than 65 years of age the choice of enrolling in a new public health insurance plan (like Medicare) or in private plans; private options only, providing people with tax credits or subsidies, if they have low income, to buy private insurance coverage, without creating a new public plan; or a public option only, eliminating private insurance and covering everyone through a single public plan like Medicare. We also assessed the level of physician support for a proposal that would enable adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years to buy into the current Medicare program — a strategy that the Senate Finance Committee has proposed.
Overall, a majority of physicians (62.9%) supported public and private options (see Panel A of graph). Only 27.3% supported offering private options only. Respondents — across all demographic subgroups, specialties, practice locations, and practice types — showed majority support (>57.4%) for the inclusion of a public option (see Table 1). Primary care providers were the most likely to support a public option (65.2%); among the other specialty groups, the “other” physicians — those in fields that generally have less regular direct contact with patients, such as radiology, anesthesiology, and nuclear medicine — were the least likely to support a public option, though 57.4% did so. Physicians in every census region showed majority support for a public option, with percentages in favor ranging from 58.9% in the South to 69.7% in the Northeast. Practice owners were less likely than nonowners to support a public option (59.7% vs. 67.1%, P<0.001), but a majority still supported it. Finally, there was also majority support for a public option among AMA members (62.2%).

Panel A shows the proportion of survey respondents who favored public options only, those who favored both public and private options, and those who favored private options only. Panel B shows the proportions of respondents (according to their medical specialty) who supported, opposed, or were undecided about the expansion of Medicare to include adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years. The proportion of support was consistent across all four specialty groups (P=0.08).

Read it all in the New England Journal of Medicine

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