by Jerry Ashton
RIP Co-Founder & EVP
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending in New Orleans the graduation ceremonies for new physicians in the Tufts University School of Medicine Maine-Track MD program. I was there to celebrate a newly-minted doctor, my niece, Emily Holden.
Also on Sunday, I was quoted in the Personal Finance section of USA Today in the article, “3 medical debt mistakes to avoid.”
I couldn’t help but appreciate the timing of both.
On the one hand, I was watching these inspiring young people take on considerable personal education debt so they could go out in the world to improve the lives and health of their fellow Americans. On the other hand, I was being of service to journalist Sean Pyles of NerdWallet by giving a warning to future patients about their medical debt.
I’m sitting there at the graduation and thinking: Watch out for the medical bills these young doctors will inflict on their patients!
To be fair, burdening patients with medical debt is not really the fault of these fledgling doctors. Our embattled “healthcare system” is at fault for that, a system many of the new graduates have vocally criticized.
New doctors take on enormous student loan debt, and then they become part of a paradigm that ensures they must impose medical debt on the people under their care. New doctors must go along with the system in order to have jobs and pay their own med school debts. Even so, whatever happened to the prime directive for doctors since ancient days? Do no harm!
“Physicians have one primary function,” one young graduate declared to the audience, “and that is to reduce for their patients the impediments to joy.” He went on to describe the current federal administration as being, in itself, a major ill-conceived impediment.
He asked, “How can we stand for this assault on our profession’s most basic requirement — science — which is central to our ability to make fact-based and not ideologically-based decisions?”
You might want to ask that yourself.
How is it in the United States that we defend a profit-based system over the physical, mental and social welfare of our fellow citizens? How can we allow people to go broke — even bankrupt — because they became ill or injured?
How is it that I felt it necessary to help found RIP Medical Debt? Our non-profit’s the sole purpose is buying and abolishing unpaid medical debt, keeping it out of the hands of bill collectors. Why does medical debt exist at all in an industrialized country?
Actually, quite a few American citizens have asked exactly such questions at town halls.
Given what I heard new doctors say at their graduation, I can imagine a potential tsunami of physicians supporting universal health care.
In 2007, the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported a study finding 26 percent of conservative medical students and 40 percent of liberal medical students either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. “Access to health care is a fundamental human right.”
That study was ten years ago — before the 2008 economic crash, before Occupy Wall Street, before so much more. What do new physicians think today? Will these young med students follow the traditional medical industry opinion, or will they lead doctors in the growing army against medical debt?