Last Updated: 2008-03-31 17:00:16 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Nearly 60% of US physicians support legislation to establish national health insurance, according to the results of the largest survey ever of American physicians’ thoughts on healthcare financing.

Results of the survey, conducted in 2007 and appearing in the April 1st issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that just 32% of physicians oppose national health insurance. By contrast, in a 2002 survey, 49% of physicians supported such insurance and 40% opposed it.

Most recent census figures indicate that the number of uninsured Americans has exploded from 2.2 million to 47 million, the largest increase since 1992, note co-researchers Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Ronald T. Ackerman, from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

The investigators sent a survey to 5000 physicians, asking two questions: 1) In principle, do you support or oppose government legislation to establish national health insurance? and 2) Do you support achieving universal coverage through more incremental reform? Each question was answered on a 5-point Likert scale.

Slightly more than half the surveys were returned. There were no significant differences between responders and nonresponders in gender, age, doctoral degree type, or specialty.

Twenty-eight percent of responders "strongly" supported national health insurance, and 31% "generally" supported it. Conversely, 17% "strongly" opposed it, and 15% "generally" opposed it.

Fifty-five percent of respondents supported and 25% opposed incremental reform as a means of achieving universal coverage, the results indicate. Fourteen percent of respondents were against national health insurance, but supported incremental reform.

With the exception of surgical subspecialists, anesthesiologists, and radiologists, over half of respondents in each medical field supported national health insurance. Except for pediatric subspecialists, who already had a high rate of support, an increase in support was noted among all medical fields compared with 2002 data.

Ann Intern Med 2008;148:566-567.

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