Minnesota physicians prefer single payer

Most Minnesota doctors like single-payer health care, academic study finds

By Andy Birkey
Daily Planet February 27, 2008
Dr. Dick Adair, a 65-year-old physician, said that the current system is not only having an impact on patients, but also on physicians. "The financial burden of caring for uninsured people is driving some doctors out of primary care and into better-paying specialties, at a time when we need more primary care doctors," he said.

In his years as a physician, he has seen a sharp change in how physicians look at health care. "Having lunch with other doctors used to mean listening to conservatives griping about the government. Now lunchroom talk is that single-payer would be a good idea," said Adair.

A recent survey through the University of Minnesota and St. Olaf College found that 64 percent of Minnesota's physicians support a single-payer system much like the Minnesota Health Plan. Another 25 percent said that health savings accounts were the way to go, and only 12 percent thought that the current system of managed care was adequate.

On a national level, (Dr. Elizabeth) Frost said that a single-payer system would be ideal. "I support a single-payer system specifically, instead of a universal insurance patchwork like [Sen. Hillary Clinton] and [Sen. Barack Obama], because it makes so much more sense," she said. "The problem with the bureaucracy of the myriad insurance companies is that each differs from each other, and their ultimate goal is to deny claims and save money." In a single-payer system, "the ultimate goal would be to provide not deny."

(Dr. Ann) Settgast agreed. "As a physician, my job would become simpler as I could make medical decisions based on my expertise and the patients' best interests -- not based on regulations [from insurance companies] that often do not have these interests in mind," she said. "The single-payer solution is the only choice that makes sense given my motivation to provide the highest-quality care to each of my patients."


By Don McCanne, MD

When you hear that the AMA is opposed to single payer reform, keep in mind that it represents only a minority of American physicians, and within their organization there is a diversity of opinion.

What is reassuring is that several studies have now shown that a majority of physicians do support single payer national health insurance. What is also reassuring is that only 12 percent of these physicians believe that the current system of managed care is adequate. They recognize that reform is essential. And they don't accept as adequate the patchwork proposed by the leading Democratic candidates.