U.S. Healthcare Professionals Speak Out on Universal Healthcare and the Presidential Candidates' Platforms
An overwhelming ninety-three percent of respondents agree with the claim that the nation needs an important reform of its healthcare system. Among the specialized doctors (cardiologists, oncologists, internal medicine), 52% go so far as to declare that they are in total agreement with that statement. Looking at political affiliation, among the respondents who recognize themselves as Democrats, up to 61% are in total agreement with a need for important reform, while the majority of the Republicans (57%) agree or somewhat agree with it.
While Canada, virtually all of Europe, Japan, and South Korea have adopted publicly-sponsored and regulated healthcare, the United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that has not implemented comprehensive coverage. Universal healthcare is defined as medical coverage extended to all citizens, and sometimes permanent residents, of a state or a country. With healthcare costs today representing 16% of U.S. GDP (four times the Defense budget), and projected to reach 19.5% within ten years, universal healthcare coverage has become an increasingly hot topic in the political arena.
The three front-runners of the presidential campaign took different positions on this subject, with ex-candidate Sen. Clinton vowing to make it a requirement that everyone participate in a universal health care plan. “We’re going to have universal health care when I’m President,” Sen. Obama promising that, “The time has come for universal, affordable health care in America,” and Sen. McCain declaring that government’s role in health care should be limited to kick-starting a competitive marketplace so that people can buy their own insurance.
Should the U.S. create a national plan? More than half of the respondents felt so, but with options to purchase additional coverage and higher benefits privately. A minority of respondents (28%) would prefer to preserve existing coverage plans and extend benefits to those that are currentlyÂ without coverage. Only 5% of the interviewed healthcare professionals would like to see no changes in the current system.
At least three-fourths of the respondents agree that both children and elders who are citizens should receive government-subsidized coverage, but only one-third then agree that elders who are residents should receive it. Respondents from all political backgrounds (Democrat, Republican or Independent) mostly agree with coverage for citizens. However self-reported Democrats are almost two to three times more likely as Republicans to endorse government-subsidized coverage for residents, even when it pertains to children.
If a national plan were offered, healthcare professionals would like it to be flexible, and 62% of the respondents declared that individuals should be able to opt out. “For those patients who can afford a higher private plan, they should be able to opt out, but everyone should have proof of insurance,” adds an oncologist from Sacramento, CA. On the subject of how this plan should be funded, a majority (61%) of respondents from the Democratic side would prefer financing by taxes, as opposed to Republicans, who would prefer an employer-plus employee or employee-only funding. Medimix International also asked the healthcare professionals what would be the main area of concern if a universal coverage plan were adopted. Of the Republican camp, 69% of the healthcare professionals shared concerns about too much government control and high taxes, while the Democrats were mainly concerned about potentially long waits or difficulty in being seen by specialists. The fear of long waits was particularly important among pharmacists, while medical doctors were mostly concerned about high taxes and too much government control.
When asked if regulating managed care by limiting treatment options and patient choice would result in a reduction of healthcare costs, more than two-thirds of the respondents of all affiliations agreed that it would have an impact, although most of the general practitioners think the impact would be minimal.
Respondents were then presented five measures that might help control future medical costs and asked to rank them from the most effective to the least effective. The measures were: capping of doctors’ salaries, enacting laws to prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for malpractice insurance, capping profits of the insurance companies who offer the coverage plans, increasing the use of generic drugs, and capping maximum damages awarded for malpractice. The most popular measure for healthcare professionals on the GOP side seems to be capping maximum damages awarded for malpractice, while a majority of the reported Democrats chose capping profits of the insurance companies who offer the coverage plans. Not surprisingly, capping doctors’ salaries was the last choice for all respondents, right after increasing the use of generic drugs.
Respondents were asked to share any additional measures they thought might be effective to control costs. Among them, physicians insisted on the role of prevention (in particular, discouraging people from smoking), and specialists called for less bureaucracy. Emphasis was also placed on limiting frivolous lawsuits brought against physicians and pharmaceutical companies: “There is a big need to have a standardized medical malpractice court system, independent of the current system. This would limit the number of frivolous lawsuits and make it less likely for a greedy doctor to agree to be an ‘expert witness’,” comments a general practitioner from Hanover, PA.
If 60% of the respondents admitted to not having read the plans of any candidate, more than 80% said they were generally aware of the candidates’ positions on healthcare coverage. A higher percentage of respondents from the Democratic side seem to have read their candidates’ programs (44%, as opposed to 38% from the Republicans). “This difference can be explained by the long campaign waged between the two Democratic candidates, and the important focus that was put on Clinton’s vs. Obama’s programs during the first two quarters of 2008,” explains Henry Gazay, CEO of Medimix International.
As one MD from Newtown, PA., put it, “The entire system is too complicated, and there will never be a simple solution, or one that will make everyone happy.” But everyone seems to agree on one thing, our healthcare system needs an important reform.
Medimix International will soon conduct a similar survey among healthcare professionals from Europe, Asia and Canada, to compare perceptions of the U.S. system from inside and outside the country.
About Medimix International
Medimix International is a dynamic provider of advanced marketing research solutions for the healthcare industry worldwide. Medimix’s proprietary panel provides direct access to over 500,000 physicians and healthcare professionals from around the world, making it one of the largest panels in the industry. Medimix specializes in global research. Learn more at http://www.medimix.net/.
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SOURCEÂ Medimix InternationalCopyright Â© 2008 PR Newswire. All rights reserved.