Doctor-Blogger Calls for More Money to Fix Primary Care

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

Kevin Pho, a primary care doc whose blog is one of our regular reads, lands on USA Today’s op-ed page this morning opining on what’s wrong with medicine in America.

It’s a shortage of primary care that comes down to money. A specialist might be paid three times as much for a 30-minute procedure as a primary-care doc would make for spending 30 minutes talking with a patient about managing chronic disease, Pho points out, citing this New England Journal of Medicine piece.

“Medical students are not blind to this scenario,� he writes. They know they’ll have the same burden of med school loans whether they choose a sub-specialty that pays $350,000 a year or a primary-care path that pays $150,000. So fewer grads are choosing primary care.

The problem will only be exacerbated if the feds bring more people into the health care system by dramatically increasing the number of people with health insurance, he argues. (For more on this point, see our Q&A with Pho on health care and the presidential campaign.)

Part of his suggested fix is straightforward, but not cheap: “Make primary care more attractive to medical students by forgiving student loans for those who choose primary care as a career and reconciling the marked disparity between specialist and primary care physician salaries.�

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