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What Do Patients and Docs Think of Health Care Reform?

Politicians and patients are clearly divided in the reform debate, but physicians seem to be united by a fear that the new law will lead to a decline in care.

Although Republicans and Democrats appeared to have adopted a more civil tone as they debated the repeal legislation on the House floor Tuesday—just 10 days after the shooting rampage in Arizona that left a Democratic congresswoman wounded and lawmakers of both parties stunned—the sides are still far apart in terms of how they see health care reform taking shape.

The new Republican-controlled House of Representatives is set to vote to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform, and the Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to let the measure die, according to a Fox News article.

The House vote had been scheduled for last week as the Republicans' first order of business, but it was postponed after the attack on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Now, the vote is back on. And although most politicians agree that the heated rhetoric over reform had gotten out of control, little has changed in narrowing the deep partisan divide. It is believed that the House action to repeal the law is merely symbolic given that Obama is certain to veto it if it gets through Congress. But it may be just the beginning of a Republican effort to chip away at the legislation.

But as politicians slug it out, the big question remains: how do those in the trenches feel about health care reform?

According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, Americans appear to be evenly divided on the law, with 40% saying they support it, 41% reporting that they oppose it, and 30% strongly opposing it. Only about one in four says they want it repealed completely. Among Republicans support for repeal has dropped sharply, from 61% after the elections to 49% now.

As for physicians, a survey from Thomson Reuters reports that nearly two-thirds fear that health care reform could worsen care for patients by flooding their offices and hurting income, and that many predict the legislation will force them to work harder for less money.

For the survey, Thomson Reuters researchers and physician services company HCPlexus surveyed 2,958 doctors of varying specialties from 50 states plus Washington, D.C. via fax.

The survey found that 65% of the doctors predict healthcare quality will decline over the next five years, 18% say it will improve, and 17% believe it will remain the same. Most physicians (74%) believe the changes will make their reimbursement less fair, according to a CNBC article.

The poll also found 57% of physicians predicted the impact of the changes will be negative, 27% said they would be positive, and 15% forecast a neutral effect.

"The National Physicians Survey tells us that physicians have not been enlisted in the healthcare reform process," said David Shrier, chief executive officer of HCPlexus. "The message they've taken from healthcare reform appears to be 'Do more with less.' Doctors are telling us they feel disenfranchised and overburdened.”

For more:

  • US House Tones Down Healthcare Debate After Shooting (CNBC)
  • Democrats press GOP for public hearings (Modern Healthcare)
  • GOP-led House set to vote against health care law (MSNBC)