This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the graduation ceremonies of new physicians at Tufts University School of Medicine Maine Track MD program (there to celebrate my newly-minted niece-Doctor, Emily Holden).
As timing would have it, on that same Sunday I was quoted in the Personal Finance section of USA Today in an article titled “3 medical debt mistakes to avoid.”
On the one hand, I was watching my niece and many other inspiring young people take on considerable personal education debt so they could go out into the world to improve the lives and health of their fellow citizens. On the other hand, by way of journalist Sean Pyles of NerdWallet, I was employed to supply a warning to their future patients. Watch out for the medical bills these youngsters will inflict on you!
Ah, to be young and to take on debt – only to become an essential part of a structure that ensures that people under their care will also share in the experience of financial stress. To be fair, burdening patients with medical debt is not really the fault of these fledgling doctors. Our embattled “healthcare system” is the cause of that, a system that many of the new graduates vocally criticized.
“Physicians have one primary function,” spokesman Paul Yannopolous declared to the audience of graduates, faculty and family members, “and that is to reduce for their patients the impediments to joy.”
He then went on to opine that the current administration was in itself a major and ill-conceived impediment. “How can we stand for this assault on our profession’s most basic foundation – science – which is central to our ability to make fact-based and not ideologically-based, decisions?” he asked.
You might want to ask that yourself
Many in the medical profession are asking such questions. How is it that in the United States we defend a profit-based system that clearly does not have the physical, mental and social welfare of its citizens as its core mission? What is it in our national psyche that will allow people to go broke – bankrupt, even – because they become ill or injured?
Actually, you might want to ask those questions of someone who can cut this problem off at its source – your congressman or woman. I understand that quite a few of them have benefited from such inquiries from their constituents at the “town hall” level.
On that same home front, I see a potential Tsunami of physicians leaning in support of the ACA, and even universal health care. What might that might that trend mean in our near future? Will doctors become “political?”
One of the earliest studies done of the politics of the medical student was printed in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2007 titled “Political Self-Characterization of U.S. Medical Students.”
At the time of the study, those leaning conservative comprised some 26 percent of medical students. “Access to care is a fundamental human right” was a statement that conservatives were found to be in disagreement or strong disagreement. In agreement or strong agreement were those leaning liberal totaled 40 percent
That was 10 years ago – before the 2008 crash, before Occupy Wall Street, before so-much-more. What are physicians thinking today? Are these young med students following them, or leading them? Will doctors (and their even-more-liberal) nurses serve as the final straw that will break the back of Big Pharma, Big Insurance and their Wall Street investors?
Stay tuned. In the meantime, I have a lot of medical debt to buy up and forgive…