The Health Policy Attitudes of American Medical Students: A Pilot Survey

Dugger, Robert A.; El-Sayed, Abdulrahman M.; Messina, Catherine; Bronson, Richard; Galea, Sandro

Background: Relatively little is known about American medical student’s attitudes toward caring for the uninsured, limiting physician reimbursement and the role of cost-effectiveness data in medical decision-making. We assessed American medical student’s attitudes regarding these topics as well as demographic predictors of those attitudes, and compared them to practicing physicians. Methods and Findings: A survey instrument was explicitly designed to compare medical student attitudes with those previously reported by physicians. Between December 1st 2010 and March 27th 2011 survey responses were collected from more than 2% of the total estimated 2010–2011 US medical student population enrolled at 111 of 159 accredited US medical schools within the 50 United States (n = 2414 of possible 98197). Medical students were more likely to object to reimbursement cuts, and more likely to object to the use of cost effectiveness data in medical decision making than current physicians according to the literature. Specialty preference, political persuasion, and medical student debt were significant predictors of health policy attitudes. Medical students with anticipated debt in excess of $200,000 were significantly less willing to favor limiting reimbursement to improve patient access (OR: 0.73 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.59–0.89]), and significantly more likely to object to using cost effectiveness data to limit treatments (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.05–1.60) when compared to respondents with anticipated debt less than $200,000. Conclusions: When compared to physicians in the literature, future physicians may be less willing to favor cuts to physician reimbursements and may be more likely to object to the use of cost effectiveness data. Political orientation, specialty preference and anticipated debt may be important predictors of health policy attitudes among medical students. Early career medical providers with primary care ambitions and those who anticipate less debt may be more likely to support healthcare cost containment.


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January 4, 2016