Do you trust your doctor?

October 15, 2013, 7:43 PM GMT+0

Americans generally trust doctors, but many - including most Democrats - think that doctors sometimes order unnecessary procedures to make more money.

On October 1st one of the major planks of Obamacare went into effect. People now have access to government health insurance exchanges to purchase insurance for 2014. These new exchanges and other moves, such as the expansion of Medicaid and the requirement that people purchase health insurance, have attracted the most public attention, but the effort to control costs of US healthcare may prove to have the greatest impact. Crucial to this is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), famously called a 'death panel' by Sarah Palin, which would be empowered to set caps on how much doctors can charge the federal government for providing care to people insured by Medicare. One of IPAB's aims is to cut the number of 'unnecessary' medical procedures.

With America still unsure about the health reform law, YouGov's latest research shows that party divides go deeper than policy disagreements alone. When asked about the honesty and ethical standards of medical doctors, a majority of Republicans (51%) rated them as high, something 34% of Democrats agreed with. Republicans also had the lowest percentage of respondents (7%) who rated the ethical standards of doctors as low, against 12% Democrats and 13% of Independents.

Unsurprisingly, people also split along party lines when asked what motivates doctors to call for unnecessary procedures. A majority of Republicans (70%) answered that it was to defend themselves from malpractice law. Most Democrats (51%) said that it often happens to protect against lawsuits, but a slim majority (51%) also say that it happens to make more money. Across all party groups, over just under two-fifths of Americans think that it often happens because doctors as 'trained to run tests first and ask questions later'.

Although Democrats seem to think that doctors are more inclined to order extra procedures for financial gain, and Republicans for legal protection, there was no partisan divide when asked about the rate at which doctors order unecessary tests or procedures. Slightly more than half of Americans (53%) think it happens occasionally and 28% say it happens frequently. Only 18% say that it happens rarely and 1% of Americans think that it never happens.

Although the exact reasons for ordering an extra procedure are the doctor's alone, a recent study showed that those doctors who are concerned with medical malpractice lawsuits are more likely to order extra tests.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty.

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