Poll Results: Doctors' Emotions Run Hot on Individual Mandate

Introduction

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing landmark arguments in what will be a key decision affecting the future of the nation's healthcare reform plans.

Although there's plenty of speculation about the outcome, many physicians on both sides of the fence have strong opinions about what the decision should be. Medscape polled physicians about their attitudes toward the key issues; it's not surprising that emotions were heated.

Do you think it is or is not constitutional for the US government to require individuals to purchase healthcare insurance or else pay a penalty?

44% - Yes, it is constitutional
56% - No, it is not constitutional

This issue is hotly debated among some of the nation's top legal scholars as well as politicians with a keen interest and high stakes in its outcome. A majority of respondents feel that it is beyond the scope of the government to compel its citizens to purchase a particular product.

Said one physician respondent, "This is not the way to reform healthcare. It neither gets to the roots of the problem nor is it constitutional for the US government to impose this kind of mandate on its citizens."

Challengers claim that the provision violates the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress broad authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Do you think all individuals should or should not be required to purchase healthcare insurance?

33% - It should be required; the ability to fund healthcare reform depends on instituting the individual mandate
14% - It should be required; it is wrong for uninsured persons to seek healthcare at emergency departments and then not pay
34% - It should not be required; the government should not force people to buy a product or service
18% - It should not be required; if healthcare reform cannot succeed without this mandate, then it is not a well-designed plan

"What makes healthcare work in other countries is that every citizen is covered and every citizen pays in some way for healthcare -- either through taxes or mandated insurance," said one respondent. "If we take healthy individuals out of the risk pool, healthcare costs skyrocket for everyone."

Some proponents point out that individuals are already required to purchase car insurance if they wish to drive, so a precedent is already set for compelling people to buy a certain product for the overall benefit of society. Others dispute that argument, saying that people can choose not to drive if they don't want to buy insurance (driving is a privilege, not a right), whereas living and maintaining one's health is a right, not a privilege.

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