Medical School Enrollment Could Place Financial Burden On US Health Care System

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Efforts to train more physicians to serve an aging U.S. population might increase health care costs, as well as expenses for Medicare, according to researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, the Washington Times reports.

The Association of American Medical Colleges recommends that by 2015 medical schools increase their enrollments by 30%, or 5,000 students annually. According to the Council on Graduate Medical Education, the class of 17,800 students who enrolled in medical schools in 2007 is the largest in U.S. history and represents a 2.3% increase from 2006. AAMC President Jordan Cohen said, "Given the extensive time it takes to educate and train tomorrow's doctors, efforts to increase enrollment must get under way as soon as possible to ensure that the health care needs of the nation in 2015 and beyond are met."

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However, David Goodman, a professor of pediatrics and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, said, "Calling for more doctors, like prescribing more drugs, for an already overmedicated patient, may only makes things worse." He said, "We already have a crisis in Medicare, we know that. We don't know how to pay for future Medicare expense at present, and no one has considered the implication of adding a large number of physicians," adding, "The physicians' fees are expensive, but once they enter the medical marketplace, no one has estimated the cost of the decisions they make. They order tests, prescribe medications, they really control health care cost in the U.S."

In addition, Goodman said, "There are not enough incentives in the market for doctors to go where they are needed most," adding, "More doctors does not mean the aging population will get the care it needs" (Lopes, Washington Times, 1/2).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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