Physician Views on the Public Health Insurance Option and Medicare Expansions

A RWJF survey summarized in the September 14, 2009 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 62.9 percent of physicians nationwide support proposals to expand health care coverage that include both public and private insurance options—where people under the age of 65 would have the choice of enrolling in a new public health insurance plan (like Medicare) or in private plans.

The survey shows that just 27.3 percent of physicians support a new program that does not include a public option and instead provides subsidies for low-income people to purchase private insurance. Only 9.6 percent of doctors nationwide support a system where a Medicare-like public program is created in lieu of any private insurance. A majority of physicians (58%) also support expanding Medicare eligibility to those between the ages of 55 and 64.

In every region of the country, a majority of physicians supported a combination of public and private options, as did physicians who identified themselves as primary care providers, surgeons, or other medical subspecialists. Among those who identified themselves as members of the American Medical Association, 62.2 percent favored both the public and private options.

The survey was conducted between June 25 and September 3, 2009 by Salomeh Keyhani, M.D., M.P.H., and Alex Federman, M.D., M.P.H., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. While the survey was conducted in several “waves” over a tumultuous summer for the health reform debate, no statistically significant differences were identified in physician responses throughout the summer.