Needed: Cure for soaring cost of medical school
Newly minted doctors are graduating with record levels of debt, including the son of Fed chief Ben Bernanke.
When the challenges facing the medical industry come up, one doesn't normally think of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. But he illustrated a stark reality awaiting would-be doctors when he testified before Congress that his son is on pace to graduate from medical school with a whopping $400,000 in loans.
Bernanke's son isn't unusual. The median education debt for 2012 medical school graduates was $170,000 in 2012, compared with $13,469 in 1978, according to Bloomberg, which adds that in today's dollars, the 1978 amount would be $48,000.
The huge cost -- and resulting debt -- of medical school may be dissuading some students from enrolling, the story says. That's coming at a sensitive time for America's health care industry, which is facing a shortage of doctors just as an aging population needs them most.
With the average four-year cost of medical school amounting to $278,455 for private schools and $207,868 for public universities, some lower-income students in particular may find the expense daunting.
"You probably are pricing out a whole segment of lower-income kids that have the ability and the intellect to succeed," Ami Bera, a California congressman and a physician, told Bloomberg. He said he left medical school in 1991 with less than $10,000 in loans.
Most medical students finance their studies with loans, given that very few full scholarships are available and grants usually pay for only a portion of the cost. But those loans don't come cheap, with graduate students paying as much as 7.9% on federal loans, far higher than the U.S. 10-year Treasury note's 1.78%, Bloomberg points out.
The country is facing a shortage of 90,000 doctors in 10 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Some specialties, such as urology and thoracic surgery, will see a decrease of physicians, while the number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to grow by one-third, the group says. On top of that, doctors themselves are getting older, with one-third projected to retire in the next decade.
The reasons behind the surging tuition might be simply the rising cost of maintaining a functioning hospital, according to the 2x2 Project, a site that's sponsored by the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
But the prices that hospitals and other health care centers charge are outrageous, with X-rays and drug injections subjected to huge markups, according to a Time magazine report by Steven Brill that was highlighted by my colleague Kim Peterson.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer (PFE) are spending less money on wooing doctors, a practice that's come under fire for driving up the costs of drugs, as my colleague Jonathan Berr wrote on Friday.
Regardless of the cause, patients may not have much patience when they find it harder than ever to get an appointment with a physician.
Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.
The cost has nothing to do with the shortage of doctors in this country. There are a limited number of slots for medical school and there is absolutely no shortage of applicants. My niece finished school this May and starts her residency in pediatrics at a hospital in June. She has a masters degree in medicine, was an excellent student as an undergrad and she had a very hard time gaining admittance. She actually went on to get the masters after she was rejected, then worked doing research in a hospital for a year before she could gain admittance because there are so many applying compared to the number of slots in school. Until they ramp up the medical schools to train more doctors the cost is not a relevant factor.
Fire the medical school doctors and hire Cuban trained Doctors who are working as waiters at restaurants as those jobs pay more than being a doctor in Cuba.
This would lower cost of tuition to about oh say ten doctors per 1,000 students pay of doctors about $20,000 a year building rent about $1,000 per student let's say another $20,000 for two admins types to take money and buy supplies and $500 a year for supplies.
roughly med school would only cost about $1,600 per year.
that was easy.
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