Health Policy

Highlights of the 2019 TMC Health Policy Institute survey

Consumers and patients weigh in


Garson Arthur "Tim" Garson, M.D., is director of the TMC's Health Policy Institute.
By Ryan Holeywell | December 2, 2019

Every year, the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute conducts a major national survey of consumers and physicians to get a better understanding of how both groups feel about key health policy issues facing the nation. This year’s survey—which had 2,750 participants—comes at a time when health care is top of mind for voters across the country. Click here to read the full report.

Here are five takeaways from the 2019 survey.

1. CONSUMERS EXPECT HEALTH CARE REFORM WILL HAPPEN VERY SOON.
Consumers are incredibly optimistic that the health care system is poised for positive change. About two-thirds of consumers—including the majority of both Democrats and Republicans—say that everyone in the United States will eventually have health care coverage. Many believe this change is imminent. About 45 percent of consumers believe everyone in the U.S. will have health care coverage within five years. Notably, doctors are a bit more skeptical. Just 28 percent of physicians believe health reform will occur that quickly.

2. THERE MIGHT NOT BE A PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE AFTER ALL.
In recent years, there has been much discussion about a looming doctor shortage in the U.S. But right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. TMC asked consumers if they had trouble getting new patient appointments. Only 1 in 5 had trouble getting a new patient visit with a primary care physician and just 1 in 6 had trouble getting an appointment with a specialist.

3. IF THERE’S A PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE IN THE FUTURE, WE CAN SOLVE IT BY KEEPING DOCTORS FROM RETIRING.
Most physicians believe there will be a doctor shortage in the future. The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts a national shortage of 46,900 to 121,900 physicians by 2032. One way to address that problem is to keep doctors who are poised to retire on the job a little longer. Of physicians planning to retire soon, about one-third say they’d delay their plans if they could spend more time with patients.

4. MEDICAID COULD BE A BIG ISSUE FOR VOTERS.
The public seems to value Medicaid and would respond negatively to proposals from lawmakers who may seek to cut funding for the program, which serves low-income residents. Nearly half of respondents say if a candidate running for office proposed reducing Medicaid, they would not vote for that candidate. Interestingly, about 16 percent of voters who currently plan to vote for Donald Trump in 2020 say they wouldn’t vote for him if he supported such a proposal.

5. AS WE TALK ABOUT COSTS, DON’T FORGET PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.
Candidates from both parties have proposed myriad ways of reducing health care costs for families. But consumers and physicians alike agree: the best way to reduce the cost of health care is for patients to take better care of themselves.




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