Doctors Seven Times More Satisfied with Payments from Private Insurance as Medicare

With all the polls of Americans on health reform, one group’s members are rarely surveyed about their preferences: physicians. Although medical societies are lobbying for special privileges, the views of actual physicians have remained largely unexamined. Two physicians recently sought to remedy this by surveying a random sample of 6,000 physicians (of which 43% responded) and publishing the results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation, the survey’s results were promoted with a different headline than you see above.

Poll finds most doctors support public option,” said National Public Radio (NPR); “73% of doctors favor public option,” said Salon’s Steve Klingman. These headlines were encouraged by the RWJ Foundation’s press release. Actually, 63% of physicians who responded supported “public and private options,” only 10% supported “public options only,” and 27% supported “private options only,” so the respondents’ preference is clearly for private options.

Of course, answers to surveys are significantly impacted by the phrasing of the questions, as well as their order. Let’s take two extreme examples. Consider these two-question surveys:

Survey 1:

  1. The Congressional Budget Office has announced that the federal budget deficit will be over $9 trillion over the next ten years. How concerned are you about the fiscal future of the country?
  2. The President has proposed a new “public option” for health insurance, which will raise taxes and government spending to fund new federal bureaucracies that will control Americans’ access to medical services. Would you be in favor of, or opposed to, such a program?

Survey 2:

  1. The U.S. Census Bureau has announced that over 46 million people in the United States have no health insurance. How concerned are you about the uninsured in this country?
  2. The President has proposed a new “public option” for health insurance, which will make significant progress towards the goal of insuring every American. Would you be in favor of, or opposed to, such a program?

Obviously, the responses would be very different. Given the bias of the RWJ Foundation, my prejudice is that the survey looked a lot more like the 2nd version, above. However, in a courteous exchange of e-mails, the authors told me that they have further research to do on the results of the survey, and have decided not to make the survey itself public until an unspecified future date.

So, we shall wait and see.  Nevertheless, given physicians’ currently negative experience with Medicare, it would be remarkable if the majority really preferred more Americans to be enrolled in a similar program.

Comments (4)

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  1. Nancy says:

    Fascinating. Especially in light of all that we hear about doctors favoring single payer national health insurance.

  2. Paul H. says:

    This result does not surprise me.

  3. Ken says:

    Not what we are used to hearing.

  4. Clint says:

    I’m a surgical specialty resident and do not feel majority support for public healthcare where I train at Indiana University.

    Why would this org not publish their survey questions?

    Pres Obama has said many things to make MDs out to be the bad guys. I, personally, don’t trust a thing he says after his many blatant lies (surgeons get $50k for leg amputation, surgeons make decisions based on how they will get paid more, etc.).

    My 2cents, why on earth would we want the gov in between patients and doctors? We need less separating MDs and patients not more.