Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Doctors and universal health care

As health care has entered the national consciousness as a political issue, conventional wisdom has held that doctors are opposed to a universal health care system. Their objections have included the government's reimbursement rate for services it already covers, like Medicare and Medicaid (and hovering at around 40 cents on the dollar, that rate can be described as nothing more than pathetic) and the potentially negative impact it is assumed such a change would have on quality of care.

But a new study from the Indiana University School of Medicine is challenging conventional wisdom.

Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, nearly three out of five, or 59 percent, said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, according to Reuters.

Perhaps surprisingly, doctors are seeing universal health care as a potential solution to many of the problems is has been assumed the change would create -- or exacerbate.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study ... "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem ... Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy," Ackermann said in a statement.
But the major professional group for physicians sees it differently. The American Medical Association has launched Voice for the Uninsured to advocate for health care reform, and its plan doesn't advocate a universal system. Instead, the AMA proposal rests on three "pillars:" Making health insurance more affordable through tax credits or vouchers, providing for individual choice in health insurance plans and regulating markets and protecting high-risk patients:

In short, the AMA advocates a clear role for government in financing and regulating health insurance coverage, with health plans and health care services being provided through private markets, as they are currently. The AMA proposal gives patients more control over our nation’s health care dollars, without sacrificing personal security or choice. It reflects important social values and traditions, such as assistance based on need, freedom of choice, market innovation and fairness.
You can read the plan itself here (PDF).

There are nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance. Are you one of them? What do you think about universal health care? Have your say in comments.