Survey of doctors on single-payer causes stir at Vt. Statehouse
Rep. George Till, MD
Dr. Deb Richter
Montpelier, Vermont - April 5, 2011
A new survey is causing a stir at the Vermont Statehouse. It shows more than one-quarter of Vermont's doctors would leave the state if Vermont moves to a single-payer health care system.
The survey shows doctors are just about split in their support for a single-payer system; 44 percent support it and 46 percent are against it.
The survey was conducted by State Representative George Till, D-Jericho. He is a physician and supports the move to single-payer.
"The question was, are you likely to stop practicing in medicine in Vermont if a government-run single-payer were initiated? Overall 28 percent answered yes to that, 53 percent answered no, the rest were neutral," Till said.
Reporter Anson Tebbetts: What does that mean? What if it became reality?
Rep. George Till: We are already short of primary care physician in 11 of 14 counties. We are already short of primary care physicians. Fourteen percent said they would stop practicing in Vermont. The specialist physicians the number was 37.4 percent. They were likely to stop practicing in Vermont.
Tebbetts: Why is that? You are a doctor. Is it because of reimbursement rates from federal government? Is it change? Scheduling? It seems everyone wants to be a specialist because of better hours and income?
Till: Well, I think income is a big piece of it. Two-thirds of our physicians in the state are specialist physicians and about one-third are primary care physicians. The problem exists in attracting people to primary care.
Tebbetts: What does this mean to someone at home-- a patient? Someone schedules an appointment it is two, three months out?
Till: It will vary from place to place in the state. My guess is that where it is already difficult to attract physicians this will exacerbate that problem significantly. We heard from several hospital CEOs in testimony in the house. Already this discussion of a single-payer system is inhibiting their recruiting.
Tebbetts: You voted for this bill. It is now in the Senate. Do you think any of this will change the debate over there or do you want it to change the debate?
Till: I think people need to take seriously the possibility that providing coverage for care cannot come at the expense of providing access to care and that is my concern.
Not everybody agrees with the conclusions in Till's survey.
"That was a nonscientific survey," said Dr. Deb Richter, a Vermont physician. "I happen to know that people took it who weren't physicians who pretended they were. And there were people who took it more than once. So it's hard to believe the results of a survey that weren't scientifically done. So I wouldn't make any conclusions about that."
Till acknowledges that there is no real way to prove that all of the doctors who responded are actually doctors from Vermont.
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