Medical student debt is the first thing we need to rectify as we try to address the primary care issue. One quarter of students are graduating with loan obligations totalling over $200,000. Consider that most med school grads are in their late twenties/early thirties and often have families to support. The pressure is on to make some money fast. Why pursue a career in a field that pays pennies?
The article notes that $2.5 billion in federal loans are available to medical students every year. What if, as part of the Obama health care revolution, we invested that $2.5 bill in our future doctors? Or even half that. What's a billion buckaroos when we've already doled out hundreds of times more than that to cover up corporate malfeasance?
What if medical school was free in the country, given that you signed a contract stipulating an agreement to pursue primary care (family practice or internal medicine) as your specialty? Wouldn't that be enticing? If you changed your mind and just had to be an interventional cardiologist, then you would have to pay back the costs of your schooling. Like if you decide to drop out of ROTC before fulfilling your obligations, you owe the government the costs already accrued.
Medical school debt is no doubt the driving force behind the primary care shortage. Merely increasing the remuneration by a certain percentage points on office visit billing codes is like putting duct tape over a smashed windshield. Plus it looks unsightly. It isn't enough. It's not going to significantly alter the distribution of grads who opt out of primary care.
It's time this country bailed out something besides Armani-attired executives who fly into Washington DC on chartered jets. Whether or not Chrysler totters along for another twenty years isn't going to affect American prominence in the world nearly to the extent that a crumbling health care system will. It's time we invested in something a little more worthy of a liberal democracy....