A new survey of US doctors shows that 48% of them are in favor of a single-payer health insurance system (like Medicare for all), while only 32% are against it, and 21% answered “I don’t know”.
What was especially interesting was that the doctors acknowledged that they might take a financial hit under a single-payer system, but they said it would be worth it because it would relieve them of having to collect money and deal with a plethora of insurance companies, each with their own rules and forms.
Duh. Doctors want to practice medicine and don’t want to spend their time doing aggravating paperwork and collecting overdue bills from patients.
As one doctor put it:
As a doctor, it’s really against my best interest to support single-payer healthcare. It reduces my earning potential. At the same time, it’s about human rights and taking care of people that need help—that is why I do this work.
Costs include the time they spend dealing with insurance companies: getting prior authorization from them, calling when their treatments denied coverage, changing prescriptions when the drugs they have prescribed aren’t covered.
And there are other costs for doctors. Because different insurance plans have different networks of hospitals, specialists, and laboratories, doctors and their staff have to spend hours looking for in-network providers. A single unified insurance plan would avoid that problem entirely.
And then there are costs due to fragmentation of health insurance. As people move from one job to another, often their insurance company changes. The same thing can happen even when they don’t change jobs, but their company decides to change health insurance plans. This can force employees to change doctors to one that is in their new insurance company’s network. In many cases, this will cause tests, procedures, and paperwork to be repeated.
The results of this survey are surprising, given that doctors in the US face a unique problem. Medical school in the US is very expensive compared to other countries and 79% of new doctors here face more than $100,000 in debt from their education. Doctors need substantial income to pay that debt off.
Also published on Medium.