Times have changed from the 1960's when doctors overwhelmingly opposed Medicare and Medicaid. A new poll reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over 60% of doctors favor some sort of public option, and another 10% favor a single payer system, for a total of nearly three quarters of physicians polled who would just as soon have the government pay people's medical bills rather than have to deal with private insurance companies. This is somewhat surprising, given how much doctors complain about Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.
So who is left that actually prefers dealing with the complexity of private insurance companies? Maybe 40% of the public, who are either satisfied with the current system, or who have bought into the political or ideological arguments against change. Oh yes, and the private insurance companies themselves, who have funded the opposition. But doctors, the one group that people might expect to oppose reform based on their own financial interests, cannot be counted upon any longer as opponents of the drive to simplify our Rube Goldberg-designed system of health insurance.
I'm still not suggesting that the public option should necessarily be a do-or-die issue for proponents of reform. There are a lot of other important things that need to be fixed in our health care system, and adding a public option is not the only way to fix those problems. The debate over the public option has also drawn attention away from other worthwhile reforms. It is still worth pointing out, though, that opposition to the public option seems a lot stronger in Congress than it is among the public at large, or among the medical profession. So you have to wonder whose interests these opponents are protecting.