Physicians back public option

PHYSICIANS BACK PUBLIC OPTION…. Public opinion surveys have consistently shown strong national support for a public option as part of heath care reform. Nevertheless, the NYT noted over the weekend that the measure has drawn “all-out opposition” by “much of the health care industry.”

Actual physicians, however, seem to agree more with their patients than with the industry. (via Dr. Ron Chusid, who has more)

A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

When polled, “nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options,” says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

Most doctors — 63 percent — say they favor giving patients a choice that would include both public and private insurance. That’s the position of President Obama and of many congressional Democrats. In addition, another 10 percent of doctors say they favor a public option only; they’d like to see a single-payer health care system. Together, the two groups add up to 73 percent.

Dr. Keyhani added, “Whether they lived in southern regions of the United States or traditionally liberal parts of the country, we found that physicians, regardless — whether they were salaried or they were practice owners, regardless of whether they were specialists or primary care providers, regardless of where they lived — the support for the public option was broad and widespread.”

Among primary care doctors, support for a public option was nearly three to one.

The conventional wisdom has been that medical doctors are skeptical about reform efforts, an idea bolstered by the AMA’s decades-long opposition to system improvements. But this survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests otherwise.

In terms of political salience, it’s likely a report like this won’t sway many votes in Congress. Indeed, a wide variety of polls point to strong support among Americans for a public option, and many conservative lawmakers simply pretend those results don’t exist.

But when it comes to persuading the public, physicians’ opinions on this may carry some weight with reform skeptics. Every little bit helps.