I went to Penn State for medical school and graduated in 2002. For the past two years I’ve been paying $4995 per month to pay off my loans.
This kind of debt essentially forces medical students to enter high-paying specialties. And that’s why your old-school primary care physician will not exist when boomers retire. Less than 5% of med students went into the low-paying specialty, primary care, last year. Why is this a problem? Because a specialist workforce will only increase the cost of care and make it much more disjointed when nobody has a primary care doc to keep your care organized. There are some people trying to figure out how to solve this problem:
The piece, published earlier this month in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, proposes that med schools cut out tuition and fees during medical education, then collect a fixed percentage of income for 10 years after a physician has finished training. Because specialties vary in their training time, a neurosurgeon might not start paying until 13 years after entering med school, while for a family practitioner payment could start as soon as seven years after beginning school.
Using a fixed percentage would help doctors choose a specialty or an employer without worrying as much about how it would affect their ability to repay educational debt, says Weinstein. “Those students who are financially successful in lucrative specialties will return more financial support to their medical school, whereas those in primary care specialties, public health professions or charity work will pay less,” the authors write.
That makes sense to me. Primary care doctors should not be penalized. They are the backbone of a highly functioning, coordinate healthcare system.