Healthcare costs continue to rise, along with a shortage of primary care doctors, and part of the problem is the escalating expense of producing doctors.
Check out this sobering title of a story run by Bloomberg News: “Medical School at $278,000 Means Even Bernanke Son Has Debt.” According to Bloomberg, the median cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses for the Class of 2013 to attend 4 years of med school was $278,455 at private schools and $207,868 at public schools. Notice that these are the median costs – many schools are more – and they do not include the cost of interest accruing on student loans that likely date back several years.
OK, but no big deal because then they make a ton of money, right?
Nope. After 4 years of college, plus 4 years of med school, they go into the graduate education phase of medical training — what we call residency. For a minimum of 3 years and as many as 8, depending on their specialty, these new med school grads work about 80 hours a week. A first year resident’s mean annual stipend pay is less than $50,000, and it rises only a couple thousand dollars each year after. Normally, during those long years, residents have to make payments on their student loans.
Hmm. So, they get out of med school with debt the size of a mortgage, spend their 20s making about $50,000 a year, but when they do get out of residency, they must make a boatload, yes? Well, yes and no.
Some Doctors Make Bank, Many Don’t
Specialists such as brain surgeons can make a lot of money, but the primary care doctors that we all depend on – the general or family practitioners and internists – do not. According to a 2011 survey by Profiles (Graduating Physicians Seeking Practice Opportunities), the median starting salary for a family practitioner was $138,000, and the national average after 6 years of practice was $199, 850. Similarly, the median starting pay for a doctor who is an internist was $145,000; the average after 6 years was $208,790. These are pretty good salaries, but certainly nothing that will make them wealthy, especially when they may be in their 30s by time they start practicing, and will probably be paying off that huge loan debt for decades.
The cost of creating physicians has led to a shortage of doctors willing to enter the primary care areas, where there is the most need. With the debt they must carry, most new docs choose higher paying specialties. Ultimately, all of us pay, one way or another, for the outrageous expense of training our doctors.
For more information, check out Get My Kid To Med School.