Medical schools suggest big government incentives for new docs

When I was writing about the future shortage of physicians months ago, I was wondering when medical school deans would first suggest a federal bailout to  increase the number of future docs. And so it has come…

On Nov. 5, I wrote about the future doctor shortage completely ignored by politicians who seem to have an answer for everything. Since Congress did not suggest the idea, Dr. Michael Johns, university chancellor and professor at Emory University, and Dr. Edward Miller, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine are floating new ideas.

Double the number of National Health Service Corps awards, and include general surgeons in the program. Under this program, medical school tuition is paid off by physicians agreeing to practice for several years in underserved areas.

Who’s going to pay that tab? Oh yeah, taxpayers.

Changing doctors’ traditional practice model. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants should be more fully integrated into clinical practice, handling the simple, uncomplicated cases.

Some would define this as rationing care. I get the concept that some health care professionals can certainly deal with some aliments, but how will people feel being cut off from their physician since they are not “sick enough?” Maybe this would work?

Cutting through the “hassle factor” of medical administrative costs. Nowhere addressed seriously in House and Senate legislation are the paperwork and multiple insurance claim forms that many physicians retiring early name – along with other administrative issues – as their No. 1 complaint.

Wait, I thought Congress was going to fix all of those paperwork problems? Didn’t they specifically tell us they were going to make the entire health care system more efficient?

Some have suggested a tax exemption on the first $50,000 of income for members of the health care field including doctors and nurses.

There are plenty of well qualified high school and college students who can see the demand for health care professionals in the future. I’m trying to figure out why these students are not running towards these gratifying careers in droves knowing that with a low supply of professionals (I’m talking doctors and nurses) the rewards – including the pay – should provide very good economic times for them in the future.

You’ve gotta ask why. Is becoming an RN or MD considered “too hard” to do? Are students looking to make lots of cash and work as little as possible? How has our culture changed during the last 25 years? Why can’t market forces work out this oncoming problem?

I’ve got my theories … how about you?

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.

1 Comment

  1. Wyndeward on January 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Okay, a couple things.

    First of all, we already pay for the education of physicians, under the Medicare program.  We pay the direct costs under one program and the indirect costs (more tests, etc.,) under another.

    Secondly, we just underwent a series of changes to the programs to discourage increasing the number of interns and residents — we currently have so many teaching slots that we cannot fill them all with American medical school graduates.  These programs fill those excess slots with foreign medical school graduates and American graduates of Caribbean medical schools.

    Lastly, those providers with medical education programs are paid on a three year rolling average, which has the effect of discouraging growth of programs, as any increase in the current year is watered down for three years.

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