|Most Doctors Support National Health Insurance, New Study Shows
Reflecting a shift in thinking over the past five years
among U.S. physicians, a majority of doctors –59 percent –
now supports national health insurance, according to a new study by the
Indiana University researchers.
Such plans typically involve a single, federally
administered social insurance fund that guarantees healthcare coverage
for everyone, much like Medicare currently does for seniors, the
The plans typically eliminate or substantially reduce
the role of private insurance companies in the healthcare financing
system, but still allow patients to go the doctors of their choice.
Published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the study
reports that a survey conducted last year of 2,193 physicians across
the United States showed 59 percent of them "support government
legislation to establish national health insurance," while 32 percent
oppose it and 9 percent are neutral.
The findings reflect an increase of 10 percentage points
in physician support for national health insurance (NHI) since 2002,
when a similar survey was conducted. At that time, 49 percent of all
physician respondents said they supported NHI and 40 percent opposed
Support among doctors for NHI has increased across
almost all medical specialties, said Dr. Ronald T. Ackermann, associate
director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research
at Indiana University’s School of Medicine and co-author of the
Support for NHI is particularly strong among
psychiatrists (83 percent), pediatric sub-specialists (71 percent),
emergency medicine physicians (69 percent), general pediatricians (65
percent), general internists (64 percent) and family physicians (60
percent). Fifty-five percent of general surgeons support NHI, roughly
doubling their level of support since 2002.
Doctors have often expressed concern about lack of
patient access to care due to rising costs and patients’
insufficient levels of insurance. An estimated 47 million Americans
currently lack health insurance coverage and another 50 million are
believed to be underinsured. At the same time, healthcare costs in the
United States are rising at the rate of about 7 percent a year, twice
the rate of inflation.
The healthcare issue continues to rank high among voter
concerns in the 2008 elections, placing thirdin a recent poll after the
economy and Iraq.
In addition to measuring attitudes toward NHI, the
survey also asked doctors about their views about "more incremental
reform," often interpreted as state- or federal-based programs
requiring or "mandating" that consumers buy health insurance from
private insurance companies, legislative measures providing tax
incentives to businesses to provide coverage for their employees, or
Fewer physicians (55 percent) were in support of
"incremental" reform. Moreover, virtually all those opposed to national
health insurance also opposed incremental reform to improve access to
care. In fact, only 14 percent of physicians overall oppose national
health insurance but support more incremental reforms. Ironically, many
medical organizations and most politicians have endorsed only
Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, director of Indiana
University’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism
Research, and lead author of the study, commented: "Many claim to speak
for physicians and reflect their views. We asked doctors directly and
found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support the
government creating national health insurance."
Other signs indicate that attitudes among doctors are
changing. The nation’s largest medical specialty group, the
124,000-member American College of Physicians, endorsed a single-payer
national health insurance program for the first time in December 2007.
Address: Physicians for a National Health Program, 29 E Madison Suite 602, Chicago, IL 60602; (312) 782-6006, www.pnhp.org.