It almost sounds like a late night infomercial or a small non-descript ad in the newspaper. The thought and idea of becoming a doctor without a monetary investment is almost unthinkable at this point, but has recently been a topic of discussion. The New York Times published an article, “Why Medical School Should Be Free,” outlining a plan for a freebie degree.
The plan would open doors for more students to become physicians without the overwhelming debt that so many incur. The authors push the idea to promote more doctors-to-be to pursue primary care specialties that tend to pay significantly less than individual specialties. Many students feel specialties are the only way to go if they ever plan to be debt free. This leaves primary care by the wayside. It is postulated that a move to eliminate medical school costs would actually intensify the competition among potential students. Without tuition expenses, schools could be more selective as more applicants would be in the running.
Of course there is a catch, however. Those students who choose to pursue specialties would be required to pay the extra expenses for such training. It would be a small price to pay considering the remuneration to be expected once in practice. This caveat would also encourage more students to choose positions in primary care, thus filling the shortage that is expected to reach 40,000 by the year 2020. It is a plausible plan and one that could potentially solve a number of problems in the healthcare sector, both for students and patients alike.
Although somewhat biased because of my current debt status, I like the idea for another reason. Physicians are expected to provide care whether a patient can pay or not. Insured patients are preferred and those who are uninsured seem to be a nuisance to the system yet they both get care. There is a significant amount of uncompensated healthcare that hospitals and physicians provide as shown in this article by the Kaiser Commission discussing “The Cost of Care for the Uninsured.” Perhaps by paying forward with free education, students would be more willing to provide free care as a way of paying back later in their careers.
The idea is definitely thought provoking and could have a significant impact on medical care. What are your thoughts about a free medical education?