With President Obama’s recent re-election, it is now a certainty that “Obamacare” will go forward as formulated with little to no changes made by Congress. One aspect of universal health coverage that gets little to no public attention or discussion is the real coming shortage of primary physicians, for this planned increase in covered lives. Are we as country prepared for the significant boost in patients? The American Medical Association has gone on record indicating that there is a significant need to increase the number primary physicians to meet to the increasing number of eventual patients who will enter the healthcare system for the first time.
Will young people who leave college with well over $100,000 in tuition debt, be prepared to shoulder more significant debt to attend and pay for four more years in medical school, only to face a world where physician salaries are on the decline?
In addition to medical-legal tort reform, which was promised as a critical part of “Obamacare” but has not yet really meaningfully materialized; we must as a matter of public policy address the tuition burden of graduating physicians; if we are ever to eliminate this real physician shortage dilemma. One method which can be quickly implemented would be for Washington to assist in medical school tuition (up to 50% of tuition per student) if the prospective physician will dedicate 20% (1 day out of 5 days) of his or her time to working in designated areas or facilities in his or her city/ state that are in need of additional healthcare providers. We as a society demand much from our healthcare providers but pay little or no attention to their financial situations. To start a career in medicine with on the average of more than a quarter of million dollars in personal debt will certainly direct young physicians to choose areas of medicine that are more financially rewarding. Additionally these financially burdened young physicians are more likely to open or join a practice in affluent areas, leading to continued disparity in the delivery of health care and the continuation of physician shortage areas in the United States.
This recommendation for tuition reimbursement coupled with some type of physician time sharing formula is an idea that deserves some consideration.