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Does Medical Education’s High Price Tag Drive Some Healthcare Costs?

My column in Sunday’s Greenville News.

‘Medical education shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.’

I was talking to a young man who is starting medical school this fall. His tuition at one of South Carolina’s newer schools will be $40,000 per year. That’s admittedly on the high end. On the low end, it runs a paltry $33,000 per year. And this is all after college, of course. He and others like him are taking out loans to the tune of $240,000 to pay for their medical educations. Another young woman I recently met is in residency and her loan payments are around $2000 per month.

Thinking back on my own medical education, it seems my tuition was around $5000 per year. But then, what with all the Saber Toothed Tigers, Neanderthals and stone surgical tools, things were simpler.. These days, I don’t know how students will do it.

The thing is, American healthcare is expensive. But so is medical education. As we embark on this century, what are the odds that physicians with $240,000 loans for medical school will be able to offer inexpensive care? What are the odds they will enter low-paying specialties? They might be interested in charity care at first, but when the first loan payments come due all the good intentions in the world won’t change the fact that lenders want their money back. Likewise, it won’t change the hard reality that it will be extremely hard for these young physicians to pay for their student loans, buy a house, have a practice (pay malpractice) and raise a family; at least without making a large amount of money in their practices. And then there’s this striking (but seldom mentioned) fact: student loans are non-bankruptable. Student loans are friends for life, or until payed off. Whichever comes first. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

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