Should We Socialize Medical School Costs?

Residency match day has brought a flurry of folks talking about specialty choice and the perpetual shortage of primary care docs as compared to specialists in the U.S.  David Williams at Health Business Blog brings up the issue of medical school (added onto college) debt and the role that it plays in dissuading medical students from picking primary care residencies.  Three questions:

  • If a student has $150,000 in medical school debt, by the end of residency how much money has society (Medicare direct and indirect medical education payments, state subsidies, indirect NIH grant funds, etc.) invested in their training?  I suspect the answer is substantially (several times) more than $150,000, but I am unsure.
  • Would we be better off to make medical school ‘free’ and therefore take student debt out of the specialty choice equation?
  • If the subsidy of medical education was complete and more explicit than it currently is, how would this change the profession of medicine?

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