As a flurry of partisan politics proceeds today with the vote in the House of Representatives to “Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Bill” – more commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act, groups claiming to speak for physicians have gained attention in the media.
Today, in the New York Times, and the Washington Post, physicians and physician groups opposed to reform were highlighted – including the 3,000 member Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. As pointed out in the New York Times article, in addition to their ultra right-wing views, they are know for producing junk “studies” that fly in the face of the training as medical scientists that all doctors receive – for example promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism, and that abortions cause breast cancer.
But the media and American public should be cautious about interpreting the discontented voices of a few on the fringe as representative of physicians generally.
The first ever Thomson Reuters-HCPlexus National Physicians Survey released today - just in time for the repeal vote - provides an excellent contrast to illuminate this point.
According to the full survey report available through their website, the survey was faxed to doctor’s offices across the country in September, 2010 – just prior to any implementations of the Affordable Care Act. The organization found that doctors who responded generally had a negative outlook about health care in the next 5 years, and over half of them believed the Affordable Care Act would affect their patients negatively.
Because this was not a scientific, or peer-reviewed publication, the authors did not include the number of faxes they actually sent out in their report, but out of more than 1,000,000 doctors across the nation, they got 2,958 responses – which means the responses represent the opinions of approximately 0.3% of doctors across the United States. They did outline in their report that they got 928 out of a possible 120,606 primary care doctors, 245 pediatricians out of a possible 36,213 pediatricians, and 74 out of a possible 18,199 cardiologists to respond to the survey for example. Perhaps the ones who did not respond to the fax were busy caring for patients, or have moved to electronic medical records system and rarely respond to faxes anymore.
The authors did admit the survey was “not sampled randomly or through a representative matching process. Therefore we recognize that the cohort of respondents could represent some bias”.
Contrasted this poor quality survey with the statements, also released today, by organizations representing over 600,000 physicians who reject repeal and instead want to build on the progress made by the Affordable Care Act. The approximately 200,000 member American Medical Association, the 100,000 member American Academy of Family Physicians, the 150,000 member American College of Physicians, and the 15,000 member Doctors for America all reaffirmed their support for health reform. In fact, last week Doctors for America delivered a petition to legislators that implored them to reject a return to the dysfunctional status quo and instead work together to move forward on health reform – the petition was signed by over 2,100 doctors.
A physician and supporter of health reform, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) released this statement, “I think my Republican physician colleagues who are calling for repeal either haven’t read the bill, or just want to drive the fear and misinformation campaign for those who gained from a system that has been woefully inefficient and way too expensive. Those who call the healthcare law a ‘government take-over’ of the health care system are just plain wrong. The Affordable Care Act is an important first step that emphasizes prevention, primary care, and lowers costs, while increasing quality for those with chronic disease. The healthcare law finally starts to scale up some of the best innovations already taking place throughout our health care system.”