More than 50 percent of US physicians support single-payer health care, survey finds

More than half of U.S. doctors support transitioning the United States to a single-payer health care system, according to a Merritt Hawkins survey released Monday.  

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Researchers at Merritt Hawkins emailed a survey to 70,000 physicians located throughout the United States. A total of 1,033 physicians responded to the survey.

Findings

According to the survey, many U.S. physicians have changed their perspectives on a single-payer health care system since 2008, when 58 percent of physicians opposed a single-payer system and 42 percent supported it.

Specifically, the researchers found that:

  • 42 percent of respondents to the latest survey said they strongly supported a single-payer health care system;
  • 35 percent of respondents said they strongly opposed a single-payer system;
  • 14 percent said they somewhat supported a single-payer health care system;
  • 6 percent of respondents said they somewhat opposed a single-payer system; and
  • Three percent of respondents said they neither opposed nor supported a single-payer system.

Reasons for the shift

Phillip Miller, vice president of corporate communications for Merritt Hawkins, in a blog post cited four possible explanations for physicians' growing support for a single-payer health system. He wrote that:

  • Across the country, more individuals, including physicians, are beginning to believe that health coverage should be available to as many individuals as possible;
  • Resistance toward a single-payer system is lessening because a new generation of U.S. physicians is emerging;
  • Some U.S. physicians simply have become resigned to the idea, rather than being enthusiastic supporters of a single-payer system; and
  • U.S. physicians are beginning to accept the idea of a single-payer health system because it would provide clarity and stability to the country's current hybrid system, which is increasingly complex.

Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians, said, "Several factors are in play here," adding, "First, the proportion of physicians in private practice vs. employed-salaried positions has decreased, so there is less concern with direct reimbursement."

Ende continued, "Second, the average age of physicians has decreased, and along with that there has been a generational decrease in concern about physician autonomy and economic independence. And third, the recent 'sturm und drang' of the health care imbroglio over the [Affordable Care Act] has made physicians somewhat distrustful of leaving health care to the whims of politicians, and more aligned with settling this issue once and for all with a system that will provide universal access to health care, and enable us to move forward, i.e. with a single-payer system."

As a result, Ende said, "We find a more egalitarian, socially committed physician community that is more comfortable with a government-controlled system of payment than was the case in 2008" (Japsen, Forbes, 8/13; Commins, HealthLeaders Media, 8/14).

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