MedCity Influencers

Health care reform for medical school debt? Anyone?

From the AMA: Student debt statistics *$156,456 – According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2009. *79 percent of graduates have debt of at least $100,000. *58 precent of graduates have debt of at least $150,000. *87 percent of graduating medical students carry […]

From the AMA:

Student debt statistics
*$156,456 – According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average educational debt of indebted graduates of the class of 2009.
*79 percent of graduates have debt of at least $100,000.
*58 precent of graduates have debt of at least $150,000.
*87 percent of graduating medical students carry outstanding loans.
Source: AAMC 2009 Graduation Questionnaire

Why medical education debt has increased
Medical education debt is driven by rising tuition. AAMC data show that median private medical school tuition and fees increased by 50 percent (in real dollars) in the 20 years between 1984 and 2004. Median public medical school tuition and fees increased by 133 percent over the same time period. Other recent 20-year periods show similar trends.

Tuition is just one source of increasing debt burdens. Other causes include:

Interest accrued on loans over time significantly adds to the total cost of student debt.
Students are now entering medical school with more education debt from undergraduate education.
Increasing numbers of “non-traditional” students who have children to support.

Those are the numbers. The road to being a physician in this country is long and arduous enough. Factor in the absurd debt load one must take on to obtain that degree and it becomes very clear why many young docs are electing to pursue careers in the higher paying specialties. It’s an unsustainable track.

We just passed Obamacare. 30 million uninsured people will have affordable health care. You won’t get denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. But what are people supposed to do when they find out there aren’t enough primary care doctors to handle the workload? The negligent attitude of Obamacare toward this forthcoming crisis is just astounding. So much political capital was expended throughout the year long battle. And to think it could all come crashing down because nothing was done about lessening the debt burden of medical school. Oh, and there’s no tort reform either. And reimbursements are going to get cut. So who wants to sign up for medical school, kids? Anyone? Someone?

/crickets

Dr. Jeffrey Parks is a board certified general surgeon working in Cleveland who writes regularly at Buckeye Surgeon.

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