Physicians support the public option

Once I got over my insane jealousy that I wasn’t the one who did this study (I have a stack of grant proposals that the RWJF rejected to do similar work), I have to acknowledge the news today that a large survey of physicians showed significant support for the public option amongst doctors:

A RWJF survey summarized in the September 14, 2009 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 62.9 percent of physicians nationwide support proposals to expand health care coverage that include both public and private insurance options—where people under the age of 65 would have the choice of enrolling in a new public health insurance plan (like Medicare) or in private plans. The survey shows that just 27.3 percent of physicians support a new program that does not include a public option and instead provides subsidies for low-income people to purchase private insurance. Only 9.6 percent of doctors nationwide support a system where a Medicare-like public program is created in lieu of any private insurance. A majority of physicians (58%) also support expanding Medicare eligibility to those between the ages of 55 and 64.

In every region of the country, a majority of physicians supported a combination of public and private options, as did physicians who identified themselves as primary care providers, surgeons, or other medical subspecialists. Among those who identified themselves as members of the American Medical Association, 62.2 percent favored both the public and private options.

Of note, the survey was done in waves over the summer, when public support waxed and waned, and physician support remained quite constant.  It may be that doctors’ minds are less influenced by the day to day politics of health care reform and more influenced by their practices and experiences.

As a consolation to me, I note that the proportion of physicians who support expanding Medicare eligibility (58%) is very similar to the proportion of physicians who we found supported National Health Insurance (59%) in our own study last year.

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