Most docs now favor national health insurance

April 1, 2008
Doctors have taken a second look at the nation's health care ills and changed their diagnosis. Their new prescription? National, government-funded health insurance.

That's the upshot of a survey conducted by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. They found that 59 percent of America's doctors now favor a national system of health insurance, up from 49 percent who favored it in a similar survey taken in 2002.

The shift in sentiment follows several years of rising health care costs, rising numbers of the uninsured and more aggressive efforts by government and private insurance programs to scrutinize doctors' medical decisions.

Until now, doctors as a group have strongly opposed national health insurance for more than 60 years. After Harry Truman won election in 1946, in part on a platform of national health insurance, doctors strongly opposed his plan, according to a book by Florida State University researcher Jill Quadagno. The Journal of the American Medical Association called it a "scourge (that will) jeopardize the health of our people and gravely endanger our freedom."

The American Medical Association also joined with health insurers and small business owners to oppose President Bill Clinton's plan for universal health coverage, launched in 1994.

IU's nationwide survey queried 2,200 physicians. Conducted by the IU medical school's Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research, the survey results were published in the April 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The survey found that 32 percent of doctors oppose a national system of health insurance, down from 40 percent who opposed such a system in IU's 2002 survey. Nearly every medical specialty favored national health insurance, with the exception of radiologists, anesthesiologists and surgical sub-specialists.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who co-authored the study with Dr. Aaron Carroll. "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem."

Both Carroll and Ackermann are professors at the IU medical school and affiliated scientists at Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute Inc.
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