Enthusiasm among doc group members hard to gauge

The two largest primary-care physician organizations support the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but I know better than to make a blanket statement such as "primary-care doctors cheer decision" even though many apparently do.

The American College of Physicians, with 132,000 internal-medicine physician and student members, is the second-largest physician association and the largest medical specialty society. It doesn't hold back on its assessment of Chief Justice John Roberts' handiwork.

"Every American will benefit from Supreme Court's decision to uphold the health reform law," reads the headline over its news release.

"While the individual mandate and its impact on access to care were the main focus of this court case, the ACA is about so much more than the mandate," said Dr. David Bronson, the ACP's president, in the release.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, which has 105,900 members, said in its news release that it welcomes the court's ruling.

"By upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has ensured that Americans have access to affordable, sustainable healthcare coverage and that they receive high-quality, coordinated and efficient care based on primary care," said AAFP President Dr. Glen Stream in the release. "It is a future that family physicians happily anticipate."

So, primary-care docs must be very happy, right? Not so, according to a company called M3 USA, which operates the website. The company stated in a news release that its "flash reaction survey" found that only 22% of primary-care physicians responding to the poll believed that the reform law would have an "extremely positive impact" on their medical practice.

At first, actually, that sounded somewhat impressive: that 22% of any group felt something would have an "extremely positive impact." Then I read that 45.7% felt it would have an "extremely negative impact." But does that mean that 67.7% percent of primary-care docs are extremists? (Or, if you prefer, "extremelyists"?)

The release stated that the survey included 243 "double-verified" primary-care physicians. Should the opinions of 243 docs taking an online survey have more weight than the official opinion of organizations representing 237,900 doctors? I'd say probably not.

But as the 104 comments printed below an AAFP article on the ruling show, those 237,900 doctors are not a monolithic block. Take, for example, the very first comment after the story: "I already quit the AMA over this, so maybe the AAFP is next. This law is a tragedy and the AAFP is leading us like lemmings over the cliff."

No, I will never pretend to know what primary-care doctors "are really thinking." But they seem to have more time than I do to take surveys and make online comments.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.



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