Fifty-nine percent of US physicians support National Health Insurance

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One of the advantages of belonging to Physicians for a National Health Program is their excellent newsletter. It offers reprints of articles related to the advocacy of a single payer plan in the US.

Perhaps the most interesting reprint in the last PNHP report was the letter published April 1, 2008 (not a joke we hope) in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Aaron E. Carroll and Ronald T. Ackerman. The text of this letter can be downloaded from the PNHP website. In 2007 Carroll and Ackerman surveyed 5000 randomly selected members of the AMA, 51% of whom replied. They asked only two questions:

1) In principle do you support or oppose government legislation to establish a national health insurance?

The answer to this question was: Strongly support – 28%; Generally support -31%; Neutral – 9%; Generally opposed – 15%; Strongly opposed – 17%. In short 59% of US physicians support a government sponsored national health insurance.

2) Do you support achieving universal coverage through more incremental reform?

The answer to this question was: Strongly support – 14%; Generally support-41%; Neutral -21%; Generally opposed – 10%; Strongly opposed – 14%.

The authors compared these numbers to a similar study they had done in 2002 when 49% of physicians supported a national health insurance. Support had increased in every specialty of medicine except pediatric subspecialists (who had high levels of support in both surveys).

The Carroll and Ackerman study has been criticized for failing to demonstrate that their sample accurately reflected the views of US physicians. It’s hard to know how biased the sample was. What does seem to be clear is that in 5 years, using the same methodology, Carroll and Ackerman found that support for a National Health Insurance had increased from 49% to 59%. This change is probably spurred by the growing difficulties physicians are having with getting reimbursed by the insurance companies.

The fact that the American College of Physicians, the 124,000 member association for internists came out in December 2007 in favor of a univeral health insurance is also strong evidence of physician support for a national solution. The ACP position paper is entitled Achieving a High-Performance Health Care System with Universal Access: What the United States Can Learn from Other Countries” and covers many of the key issues in this debate.

It would be nice if some pharmaceutical company, or perhaps a large HMO, would do a big-scale survey of physicians asking if they supported a National Health Program. But since single-payer has been declared out of the question by the political class, we aren’t holding our breath for such a survey.

Of course, a government-sponsored National Health Insurance has many advantages other than physician reimbursement. To quote from PNHP: “The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 47 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.”

The PNHP is urging physicians to sign a letter to the Presidential Candidates urging them to consider a single payer plan. The link is at www.pnhp.org/letter. Their website is very well set up to put you in touch with your representatives in government.

Posted by Matt Anderson

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1 Response to “Fifty-nine percent of US physicians support National Health Insurance”


  1. 1Ft Lauderdale health insurance

    Rather unfortunate that a single-payer plan seems out of the question to most legislators. Personally, I’d be very open to the idea since my current group benefits are nonexistent. My only option at this point is to get a single payer plan anyway, but almost certainly at a much higher cost than I should rightfully be paying as a young and relatively healthy person. Hopefully all those physicians surveyed will get their wish, for all our sakes.

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