Friday, June 03, 2011

The Grand Game: Medical School Edition

A truly remarkable proposal: make med school free, but make specialties really, really expensive. Read it here, comment you know where. My own view: If you think doctors are maximizing the following function:

Income = f(x) + $155,0000 (Where x is choice of specialty)

Then the same x will maximize the following function:

Income = f(x) + $0

In other words, it cannot be true that the choice of specialty will be affected by the fixed cost of attending med school in the first place.

The other part of the argument is that we need to charge for studying specialties. For some reason, our brave authors assume this is a fixed choice: "There are nearly as many doctors enrolled in specialty training in the United States (about 66,000) as there are students in United States medical schools (about 67,000), the forgone stipends would cover all the tuition costs."

I have news: if this cockeyed plan is implemented, those numbers will change, quite a bit. And only the people with specialties will have those big debts. Which will mean elective MRIs for everyone; papa's got debts to pay!


Chris said...

"It would also attract college graduates who are discouraged from going to medical school by the costly tuition."

Um....last I checked there are about a bagillion college students that WANT to go to Med school but don't because they can't get in.

Allow more kids into med school or open up different types of med schools (weaker admission criteria with degrees that are limited to primary care, etc.). But please, please, please don't social-engineer results by providing subsidies to those that end up in "the 15 highest-paid professions in the United States, [where] all but two are in medicine or dentistry."

Yikes, grand game indeed.

Anonymous said...

Why do you assume that being a good primary care physician is less difficult than being a good radiologist or a good orthopedist.

A good primary care physician must have a far wider range of knowledge than a specialist, albeit with less depth. This is not necessarily easier.

BR said...

Perhaps the US could create a young physician bubble to fix the US' old people bubble, but what happens to all the middle-aged physicians when the US' old people bubble collapses? Well, at least they wouldn't have any debt to pay off...

Chris said...

Completely agree. Obviously no silver bullet to our health care system, but we do need to allow more students to pursue careers in medicine.

If those additional students are limited to the less financially lucrative field of primary care, so be it. I'm sure they will still make great doctors.

I just find it odd that the authors of the linked article think there is a shortage of students looking to go into medicine b/c of tuition.