CONTEXT: Over one year after passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), legislators, healthcare experts, physicians, and the general public continue to debate the implications of the law and its repeal. The PPACA will have a significant impact on future physicians, yet medical student perspectives on the legislation have not been well documented. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate medical students' understanding of and attitudes toward healthcare reform and the PPACA including issues of quality, access and cost. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: An anonymous electronic survey was sent to medical students at 10 medical schools (total of 6982 students) between October-December 2010, with 1232 students responding and a response rate of 18%. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Medical students' views and attitudes regarding the PPACA and related topics, measured with Likert scale and open response items. RESULTS: Of medical students surveyed, 94.8% agreed that the existing United States healthcare system needs to be reformed, 31.4% believed the PPACA will improve healthcare quality, while 20.9% disagreed and almost half (47.7%) were unsure if quality will be improved. Two thirds (67.6%) believed that the PPACA will increase access, 6.5% disagreed and the remaining 25.9% were unsure. With regard to containing healthcare costs, 45.4% of participants indicated that they are unsure if the provisions of the PPACA will do so. Overall, 80.1% of respondents indicated that they support the PPACA, and 78.3% also indicated that they did not feel that reform efforts had gone far enough. A majority of respondents (58.8%) opposed repeal of the PPACA, while 15.0% supported repeal, and 26.1% were undecided. CONCLUSION: The overwhelming majority of medical students recognized healthcare reform is needed and expressed support for the PPACA but echoed concerns about whether it will address issues of quality or cost containment.
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