In a previous post, I examined the landmark legislation passed in Massachusetts in 2006 providing universal coverage to its residents, and its effects on access, cost and quality of healthcare in the state.

Most critics of the law have argued that it has resulted in a significant increase in demand for healthcare provider services through the increase in the number of insured people, while the supply of doctors has remained the same. Given the reported shortage of doctors in the state and nationwide, one would expect that most physicians would feel overwhelmed with the increase in demand and thus may have a less than favorable view of the law. A new study suggests just the opposite: doctors in Massachusetts are overall happy with it.

To start with, 70% of the doctors surveyed in the study indicated that they supported the Massachusetts health insurance reform while only 13% opposed it. Only 7% of the doctors thought that the law should be repealed and 29% thought that it should be continued as it currently stands. Almost half of them (46%) thought that is should be continued but with some changes made.

In terms of the impact of the law on workload, the majority of the doctors indicated that the law did not have much of an impact on the amount of time patients wait to get an appointment (60%), on the amount of time they can spend with a patient (66%) or on the amount of time patients wait in the waiting room (70%). As for the impact of the law on their medical practice overall, 57% thought that it did not have much of an impact, 22% indicated that it had positive impact and only 13% believed that it had a negative impact.

As expected, the law had some substantial effect on the uninsured patient population. As such, 42% of doctors indicated that law had a positive impact on their uninsured patients’ ability to pay for their care, while 48% said that it had a positive impact on the number of uninsured patients in their practice.

Finally, the doctors in the study were asked to rate the Massachusetts system for providing medical care to people in the state. 63% of them rated it excellent/very good, 30% rated it fair, while only 6% rated it poor. However when asked to rate the nation’s system for providing medical care to all Americans, only 32% rated it excellent/very good, 43% rated it fair and a substantial 23% rated it poor.

As the nation prepares for the last few miles in the healthcare reform marathon, it is important to keep doctors engaged in that debate. Massachusetts doctors seem to think that in a near-universal coverage system, improving care for the uninsured is possible without compromising their ability to provide care for all patients.