Doctor Survey Flawed, Irrelevant

April 20, 2011

I am truly perplexed as to why so much attention is being misdirected to Rep. George Till’s recent survey of Vermont doctors concerning single-payer health care reform. At best, it is much ado about nothing.

The methodology is blatantly flawed. Barely a third of the 1,686 postcards Dr. Till sent out to doctors were completed — a very small sample — and by whom where they actually completed? I personally know of several non-doctors who responded to the survey, and others have related similar instances to me as well.

Additionally, several of Dr. Till’s questions could not pass an independent smell test for objectivity. His questionnaire artfully weaves a single-payer system in with provider taxes and Medicare-based reimbursement rates — neither of which is contemplated in the present legislation nor particularly popular with medical professionals. Polling results often hinge not only on how questions are worded, but in what sequence they are asked. Questions dealing with a public option and streamlined billing procedures are both misleading and not relevant. If you ask the questions the “right” way, you get the results you are hoping for — surprise, surprise.

As to the 28 percent of the doctors who said they might stop practicing under a single-payer system, that number actually amounts to 165 practitioners. I would like to remind Dr. Till of the hundreds of medical students who journeyed to Montpelier on March 26 from around the country to support single-payer reform and said they would consider moving to Vermont were a single-payer system initiated. An additional 200-plus doctors from 39 states signed an open letter to the Legislature saying they would consider moving to Vermont given a single-payer system.

The bottom line: Dr. Till got the survey results he was looking for. Unfortunately, those results don’t honestly reflect what the majority of enlightened professionals are looking for.

Marilyn Mode

Times Argus