A new study finds that a majority of physicians support the creation of a public health care option.
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) study published in Monday's New England Journal of Medicine shows that 63 percent of physicians support a health reform proposal that includes both a public option and traditional private insurance. If the additional 10 percent of doctors who support an entirely public health system are included, then approximately three out of four physicians nationwide support inclusion of a public option. Only 27 percent support a private-only reform that would provide subsidies for low-income individuals to purchase private insurance.
Surveying a nationally representative sample of 2,130 physicians across America, researchers Salomeh Keyhani, M.D., M.P.H., and Alex Federman, M.D., M.P.H., from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City queried physicians about a range of options for expanding health insurance coverage.
"There should be no confusion about where doctors stand in the debate over expanding health insurance coverage: they want reform," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "This survey reveals important information about the perspective of physicians on issues central to the health reform debate. Policy makers should listen to their doctors."
"We found that no matter how you sliced the data, physicians demonstrated majority support for a public health insurance option, regardless of their type of practice or where they live," said Keyhani.
Among those physicians who identified themselves as members of the American Medical Association, 62.2 percent favored both the public and private options. The AMA has opposed a public option, saying that it "threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers."
A majority of physicians surveyed (58 percent) also supported expanding Medicare eligibility to those between the ages of 55 and 64.
"These results give voice to individual physicians in the national discussion about health reform," said Federman. "Most often we hear the opinions of special interest groups rather than doctors themselves, but we know that Americans want to hear the opinions of doctors like those who treat them. This study lets us hear the unfiltered views of physicians on key elements of health reform and should be useful for lawmakers."