Background: Forty-one million Americans have no health insurance and, despite the growth of managed care, medical costs are again increasing rapidly. One proposed solution is a single-payer health care financing system with universal coverage. Yet, physicians' views of such a system have not been well studied.
Methods: We surveyed a random sample of physicians (from the American Medical Association Masterfile) in Massachusetts, regarding their views on a single-payer health care financing system and other financing and physician work-life issues that such a system might affect.
Results: Of 1787 physicians, 904 (50.6%) responded to our survey. When asked which structure would provide the best care for the most people for a fixed amount of money, 63.5% of physicians chose a single-payer system; 10.7%, managed care; and 25.8%, a fee-for-service system. Only 51.9% believed that most physician colleagues would support a single-payer system. Most respondents would give up income to reduce paperwork, agree that it is government's responsibility to ensure the provision of medical care, believe that insurance firms should not play a major role in health care delivery, and would prefer to work under a salary system.
Conclusions: Most physicians in Massachusetts, a state with a high managed care penetration, believe that single-payer financing of health care with universal coverage would provide the best care for the most people, compared with a managed care or fee-for-service system. Physicians' advocacy of single-payer national health insurance could catalyze a renewed push for its adoption.