policy

Student Debt: About the Mortgage Weighing You Down

So, I feel bad that all of my posts seem to do nothing but poke holes in the bubble that protects medical students from the “real world.”  I started with the threats to GME, and then brought home the government shutdown…and now I’m about to do the same with student debt.  But talk about it or not, this hulking Goliath is going to catch up with many of you one way or another, so I figure best to be prepared. Let’s get the numbers out of the way first: 86%– the amount of graduates from 2012 who had debt $166,750– the average amount of debt for these graduates from medical school ONLY.  Let’s note that there is actually a bimodal peak here, with over 1/3 of these students having debt > $200,000 (meaning that the average is skewed down thanks to those scholarship recipients). $49,651– the average salary of a 2012 intern. This equates to under $13/hr as residents work 40-80 hours per week. 36%– the amount of these graduates who also have undergraduate debt   Briefly I want to talk to you about a cushion we used to have called “federal loan subsidies”.  There were loans called subsidized Stafford loans that did not begin accruing interest until 6 months after the student graduated medical school.  But then Section 502 of the Budget Control Act of 2011 eliminated this...

Sorry Doc, Guess You’ll Have to Find Another Job

Imagine buying tickets to your favorite concert, changing your schedule so that you can go a certain date, organizing how you’re getting there and getting pumped about it with all your friends. You get to the concert. You’re beyond excited to belt out every lyric to every song because you listen to this band constantly. You go up to will call to pick up your tickets with a stupidly huge smile on your face, and the guy standing behind the window says “I’m sorry, we over sold on tonight’s tickets, so you will not be able to go in for the show tonight. Apologies.” You are PISSED. Now, imagine that scenario and your frustration times a billion… We at The “Almost” Doctor’s Channel have been trying to help get the word out about an issue that will not only cause a great level of frustration for medical students,  but it will also prevent all patients from receiving healthcare. We’re hoping to educate those who don’t know about the proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Medicare program, which funds more that 75% of residency programs. So, this morning, I was thrilled to see an article published by Bloomberg News sharing some frightening statistics that the public needs to know. Yes, the article explains that medical school acceptances are at a record high, however, that does not mean that these students will be able to become trained...

What the Government Shutdown Means to You

It turns out that as medical students, the amount of time we sacrifice to the gods that are basic sciences and clinical rotations is so great that the world of current events can pass us by. But one event that I can’t in good conscience let you ignore is the government shutdown. It’s easy to turn your textbooks into an impenetrable Fort Kickass, but the implications of this quandary reach even into the hallowed halls we construct to insulate ourselves from the outside world. First, a little background. Our country every year must pass a budget that guides our spending. Realistically, it’s like giving an 18-month-old a paint-by-numbers and expecting a masterpiece, but it gives us a place to start. A federal budget is typically proposed by the President and then Congress takes this recommendation, passes a law, and then sends a final version back to the White House for approval. And then unicorns go dancing across the rainbows of Bubblegum Canyon. Since 1997, shockingly, this happy little agreement has failed to materialize. Because of the Antideficiency Act, in the absence of a budget, all government activities must stop (turns out it’s illegal to spend government money without it being allocated, who knew?).  To avoid this, Congress relies on the well-loved stop-gap approach, in this iteration known as a “Continuing Resolution,” that provides structure for the funds and allows...

5 Easy Steps for YOU to Save Thousands of Residencies

On March 14th, representatives Schock (R-IL) and Schwartz (D-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation that aims to create 15,000 much-needed residency training positions and takes a critical look at the residency cap that has existed since the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. I happened to be in Washington D.C. for DO Day on the Hill when Congresswoman Schwartz introduced the bill, and she came to our morning debriefing to address hundreds of osteopathic medical students and physicians for our national lobbying day. She explained how the number of Medicare-funded residency slots producing licensed physicians has been capped since 1997, yet the US population has steadily grown each year (estimated to be an over 40 million increase in individuals from 1997-2013).  Additionally, with the addition of 30 million individuals added to the insurance pool by 2014 due to the Affordable Care Act, an already stretched-thin healthcare system will be faced with an ever-increasing patient load with limited resources and manpower.  Bottom-line: healthcare insurance coverage is meaningless if there aren’t enough providers to provide the actual care. The bill, The Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act (H.R. 1201), currently has 10 co-sponsors and is being referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means committees. After doing a little digging around, I’ve found a fairly simple way to find out more about the bill and how to support it. Support the “Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act” in 5 Steps   1) Read up...

Your Future, Our Fight: #SaveGME

Is it worth it? If you’re a med student, at some point between daily reading, studying for the next test, preparing for Boards, or relearning the pertinent physical findings for a Shelf, you have asked yourself this question. Well, have I got an answer for you.  It turns out that there’s a chance that after four years of medical school, X number of “years of opportunity” before that, college, and whenever you first heard the calling, you might not even have a residency…So relax! Now before you faint, a little background.  Part of Medicare’s mission, as established in 1965, is to help fund Graduate Medical Education (GME) costs.  This support comes in two flavors: Direct GME and Indirect GME.  The Direct program uses $3.5 billion each year to pay residents, compensate physician teachers, etc.  The Indirect program pays $6 billion to hospitals to offset the higher costs associated with being a teaching institution.  That’s a grand total of roughly $9 billion every year.  Still with me? Along comes the (recent) present and, amidst a confluence of politics including a desire to not look like that classmate who’ll always “get you next time”, the Budget Control Act established automatic 2% cuts across the board for every government program.  Medicare, and by extension, GME, is one of these programs. In addition to this, President Obama’s 2014 budget plans to cut $11...

I Would Suck at Being Poor and So Would You

I was thinking today how bad I would be at being poor. I’m great at being broke. I handle broke like a champion. But broke isn’t poor. Broke is temporary with better things as a possibility. Poor is generally permanent; at the very least it feels that way. Poor has no clear way out. You can’t just hang in there until things get better because probably they won’t. Being poor wouldn’t make me smarter or a better person than I am now. It would give me a different skill set, yes, but less formal education. So if I were poor, I’d most likely make all the same dumb mistakes I make now but there would be much higher stakes. Every bad choice would drive me deeper into a hole instead of merely keeping my retirement account from growing properly. I’d buy my kids toys when they opened their eyes all big and asked nicely, even when they don’t need them. Even if I knew the toys were junk and going to break soon. I’d pay extra for the backpack that will help make my son fit in at school instead of the practical one. I’d probably even get myself the occasional treat I didn’t need. And I would hate being poor. I wouldn’t be poor but happy. I’d be poor and miserable. I’d know there were better things out...

The Drug That Makes You Smarter, Or Does it?

Adderall was first created to treat impulsiveness and improve focus in people with ADHD and ADD. It has since then been used to treat several disorders, such as narcolepsy. But what are the ramifications of the drug and has its use becoming uncontrollable in our society? Source:...