There is brand new research that finds very strong and deep public support for health care reform, including from Republican voters.
In a survey taken in the first week of February, Celinda Lake and Associates found that voter support for reform (after hearing a series of arguments for and against) is strong across partisan lines, with the strongest support among Democrats (67% favor, 21% oppose) and Independents (59% favor, 27% oppose), and with over half of Republican voters on board (52% favor, 42% oppose).
This is important, because the major "con" argument tested by the pollsters - that health care reform will allow bureaucrats to make decisions best left to doctors and patients - is the strongest card critics have to play. That it doesn't resonate with voters - including a majority of Republican voters - bodes well for health care reform.
There were some surprises.
"By very wide margins (+56 points) voters support instituting comparative effectiveness reforms to supplement doctors' clinical knowledge, but voters need to be reassured that scientific and cost effectiveness data do not replace their doctor's judgment. Seventy three percent of voters (45% strongly) support creating an independent organization that supports health providers by giving them information about best treatments to rely on in addition to their own judgment."
The surprise is that Republican voters are more likely than Democrats and Independents to support comparative effectiveness research if it explicitly mentions cost instead of just clinical effectiveness. Why is this surprising? Because its was conservative critics, like the Wall Street Journal's editorial writers, who argued that CER would result in the government denying care found to be too costly.
Voters see it differently: "Messages that focus on providing doctors with scientific and cost effectiveness evidence, modernizing the health care system with health information technology, and controlling overuse of the health care system are seen by voters as both supporting doctors and improving care for patients." (emphasis added). This may be because, "Voters have a great deal of confidence in their doctors ... They trust their doctors and consistently support changes to help their doctors do their jobs."
One thing this tells me is that doctors - and by virtue of this, physician organizations like ACP - have enormous credibility in the health reform debate. If we say that programs like comparative effectiveness will help our doctors do their jobs well, we are more likely to be believed than, say, some non-physician editorial writer ranting about bureaucrats telling doctors what to do.
Another interesting finding is that although the public like and trust their doctors, they don't mind getting care from someone else. "By an overwhelming margin (+57 points), voters support allowing health professionals other than doctors to provide more care to free up doctors and help control costs."
Voter opinion can still change, of course, and hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent trying to shape it. But the advocates for health reform start out with a decided advantage. The critics will have to come up with something more persuasive than trying to scare voters about rationing, especially if their doctors tell them otherwise.
Today's question: How do you feel physicians - and physician membership organizations - should take advantage of the high degree of trust and confidence that patients have in doctors to influence health care reform?