Surveyed Physicians Favor Mix of Public Option/Private Insurance Coverage

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , September 16, 2009

As a bonus question, the researchers also asked physicians for their views on whether Medicare should be expanded to people between age 55 and 64, such as the Senate Finance Committee has proposed. More than 58% supported the expansion.

"The support was consistent across all four specialty groups (primary care providers, medical specialists or subspecialists, surgeons or surgical subspecialists, and all other doctors) with proportions in favor ranging from 55.6% to 62.4%."

Yes, there are lots of questions to be answered about how such a public/private health insurance offering would work, how it would meld with a pay or play rule, an insurance exchange or an individual mandate.

But as Keyhani and Federman wrote, large groups of organized medicine have been the ones to influence healthcare policy over the years, "and in doing so may have often obscured the collective views of individual physicians across the spectrum of specialties interests and regional affiliations."

"Our study of a national sample of physicians showed that a clear majority support a combined public-private approach to expanding health insurance," they wrote.

"It seems clear that the majority of U.S. physicians support using both public and private insurance options to expand coverage," the authors wrote. "Therefore (it) should be carefully considered by lawmakers as they finalize legislation to reform healthcare and provide coverage for 47 million uninsured Americans."

It is not by coincidence, to be sure, that the study was released on the eve of the unveiling of the Senate Finance Committee's health reform package, a massive bill that does not contain provisions for a public option.

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Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

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