NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medical Students Lack Knowledge of Health Care Overhaul

October 2, 2012

Many medical students have shown they don't fully grasp the tenants of the Obama administration's health care law. This is problematic because these future doctors are directly affected by the law and are the ones that need to implement many of its provisions, says Reuters.

Admittedly, all the fault is not of the individuals, but rather the education they receive in medical school. Classes focus heavily on the science of health rather than the political dimension of providing health care.

A survey was recently taken of about 850 medical students in Minnesota to assess the extent of the knowledge that medical students have about the new law. Forty percent they had no opinion about the law -- most likely because there was a lack of understanding about it.

In January 2011, an online survey of about 1,235 medical students was taken. About 843 students, or 68 percent, responded back with their answers.

  • Forty-eight percent said they understood the basic components of the law.
  • On the other hand, 40 percent of students said they did not.
  • Furthermore, 47 percent of students said they supported the law. This is close to the same proportion of people who said they understood the basic components of the law.
  • Only 13 percent of respondents said they didn't support the law.
  • About 69 percent agreed that doctors were obligated to play a role in its implementation. This includes people that disagreed with or didn't have an opinion on the law.

Researchers found the students that identified themselves as liberals were more likely to support the law and argue that they were responsible for its implementation. They also found that students who understood the law were more likely to support it.

Many in the medical field hope that schools will begin to supplement their curricula with information about health policy. Some ways a school can incorporate education about health policy is to offer courses during a student's preclinical years, workshops, online education or assign independent reading.

Source: "Medical Students Lack Knowledge of Health Care Overhaul," Reuters, September 25, 2012. Tyler N. A. Winkelman, Ryan M. Antiel et al., "Medical Students and the Affordable Care Act: Uninformed and Undecided," Archives of Internal Medicine, September 2012.


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