July 14, 1994

Gloomy Doctors and “Scared Public” Spurn Clinton Plan But Favor Reform Principles

The Public, Their Doctors, and Health Care Reform: Part II

Summary of Findings

Over the past 12 months Americans and their physicians have been frightened by the health care reform debate, and have soured on the “Clinton plan”. But both the public and medical doctors continue to strongly support universal coverage as the core element of the changes they seek in the nation’s health care system.

In a dramatic turnabout from a year ago, the new Times Mirror Center poll found most practicing physicians (51%) thinking that the country’s health care system works pretty well, and requires only minor changes. Fewer thought fundamental changes are required (39%), and still fewer believed that the system should be completely rebuilt (7%). Last April, a 64% majority of a comparable physician sample thought the system needed fundamental change, while only one in four favored minor changes. The current poll only found extensive support for changes in the health care system among doctors who care for minority patients, psychiatrists, salaried physicians, women and primary care doctors.

While doctors have lowered their voices about how much health care reform the country really needs, they continue to think that universal access, and the millions of uninsured people in this country are the top problems facing U.S. medicine. The American public itself says that health care reform that fails to cover all of the uninsured as soon as possible is unacceptable. The public is also prepared to punish members of Congress who vote against reform in November. But paradoxically, the public and physicians express misgivings about employer mandates that would lead to universal coverage.

These findings are based on two recent nationwide telephone surveys that measured trends in opinion about health care reform among representative samples of practicing physicians and the public at large.