Dr. Peter B. Bach, former senior adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is the director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Robert Kocher, a special assistant to President Obama on health care and economic policy from 2009 to 2010, is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. Together they made an interesting proposal to increase the amount of physicians specializing in primary care, which is expected to see a shortfall of 40,000 docs by 2020.
Their proposal: Medical school should be free.
They wrote about their plan in the New York Times. Here are some excerpts:
- “Huge medical school debts — doctors now graduate owing more than $155,000 on average, and 86 percent have some debt — are why so many doctors shun primary care in favor of highly paid specialties.
- Fixing our health care system will be impossible without a larger pool of competent primary care doctors who can make sure specialists work together in the treatment of their patients.
- Making medical school free would relieve doctors of the burden of student debt and gradually shift the work force away from specialties and toward primary care. It would also attract college graduates who are discouraged from going to medical school by the costly tuition.”
Here’s where their plan gets really creative. Upon completion of free primary care training, Bach and Kocher propose to eliminate salaries earned during specialty residencies. More details:
- “Under our plan, medical school tuition, which averages $38,000 per year, would be waived. Doctors choosing training in primary care, whether they plan to go on later to specialize or not, would continue to receive the stipends they receive today. But those who want to get specialty training would have to forgo much or all of their stipends, $50,000 on average. Because 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.”
What do you think?