Massachusetts doctors snub state’s health reform as model for country, pick single-payer system instead

BOSTON – For the first time the Massachusetts Medical Society has asked doctors what they think about health reform in its annual “Physician Workforce Survey” of 1,000 practicing physicians in the state, and the results may strike some as surprising.

A plurality of the physician respondents, 34 percent, picked single-payer health reform as their preferred model of reform, followed by 32 percent who favored a private-public insurance mix with a public option buy-in. Seventeen percent voted for the pre-reform status quo, including the permissibility of insurers offering low-premium, high-deductible health plans.

Remarkably, only 14 percent of Massachusetts doctors would recommend their own state’s model as a model for the nation. A small number of respondents, 3 percent, chose an unspecified “other.”

In other words, the doctors with the most on-the-ground experience with the Massachusetts plan, after which the Obama administration’s new health law is patterned, regard it as one of the least desirable alternatives for financing care.

The findings contrast with an earlier survey of Massachusetts physicians’ opinions on health reform funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2009, found that three-fourths of doctors in the state support the Massachusetts reform law. However, the survey did not allow respondents to express their preference for alternative models of health reform.

Dr. Rachel Nardin, chair of neurology at Cambridge Hospital and president of the Massachusetts chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, said: “Massachusetts physicians realize that the state’s health reform has failed to make health care affordable and accessible, and won’t work for the nation. These findings show the high support for single-payer Medicare for all by physicians on the front lines of reform.”

While many in the country look to Massachusetts as a role model for the country, Dr. Patricia Downs Berger, co-chair of Mass-Care, the single-payer advocacy coalition in Massachusetts, and a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, notes, “Physicians in Massachusetts, particularly after health reform, know from experience that the current health care system is not sustainable and is not addressing the deep inequalities and high costs faced by patients, and they are calling for a more fundamental change.”

A survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in April 2008 showed that 59 percent of U.S. physicians support government action to establish national health insurance, an increase of 10 percentage points over similar findings five years before.

Link to the 2010 Physician Workforce Survey (relevant pages: 86-90):


  1. Andrew D Hood on October 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    We should be bringing up the fact that those in congress so adamantly opposed to single payer for the people are also completely hypocritically using a comprehensive federal government health care program funded by taxpayers’ dollars to provide themselves with the best of health care while they vote against their constituents getting the same quality of health care as if elitists are looking down their noses at their constituents.

    • Rodney Hytonen on October 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      They select from a group of private for-profit plans.

      The reason it’s cheaper is only because the taxpayers pay 72% of the premiums.

      It would be MUCH cheaper if everyone could just choose to buy into Medicare (=HR676.) Keep the mandates, of course.

      Since Medicare produces a monthly surplus, and with a limited, VERY high risk pool of only high cost seniors, for $100/month, it stands to reason we could all have CADILLAC, no copay, no limits, no exclusions Health Care for $100/month if the young and healthy were included in that pool.

      America literally can’t afford the existence of private profit anywhere in Health Care.

  2. Michael Slater on October 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Don’t mean to be rude, but even with a plurality of 34% it means that 2/3’s of respondents don’t think single-payer is the correct approach. I personally prefer single-payer but it seems to me these numbers indicate a hard time ahead for those of us who want what 66% of the MD’s don’t seem to like.

  3. Renee Bouvier on October 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    As soon as an American citizen becomes seriously ill, regardless of socioeconomic status and one’s level of higher education, this citizen will lose his or her healthcare insurance coverage, no matter if she or he had paid for the premiums of this insurance coverage for twenty or more years. The only option is Medicaid and/or Medicare. Usually one is thrown to the sewer of Medicaid, literally begging for one’s medical treatment. As for civil liberties,…. Laugh! What’s that? It’s nothing short of an abrogation of the social contract between citizen and state. That is, the federal government of the United States had betrayed its people. Once the social contract is effectively abrogated, there is no going back unless the patient receives full restitutionn and compensation. Without this full restitution and compensation, anything goes — goes down the sewer of repression. Unfortunately, there has been no mention of “blood on one’s hands.” Americans appear to be slackers, shirkers, liars, cheats, and thieves. What’s new?