The Future of the Medical Industry

December 9, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Rachael Borne

With the recent passage of the massive health reform bill, the attitude of some practicing physicians differ greatly from students on the medical track. Many current doctors are now considering early retirement while students have accepted the bill, whether they like it or not.

The future for students studying medicine might be as unpredictable as the actual bill. SMU pre-med major Keith Champlin believes one of the main problems of the bill is the actual understanding of it from Americans.

“I don’t even know much about the health care bill or how it can be implemented effectively. Overall, I am not very excited about it but there is nothing I can do about that now,” said the senior, who is currently applying for medical school.

UT Southwestern Medical School student Tom Ju is aware of the controversy of the bill but is not worried it will affect his future. He does believe the bill will create some obvious, negative consequences but that does not diminish his desire to become a doctor.

“I don’t really have a choice to like the bill or not like it, I am too far into school to really have an opinion about it that could lead to changing professions,” said Ju.

The health reform bill contains more than 2,500 pages, overhauling the entire health care system and ultimately the entire medical industry. The future for pre-med and medical students seems uncertain even to those studying to work in the industry.

Dr. Randy Leone, a radiologist at Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake, believes he understands the bill for the most part. He is completely opposed to the bill and even described it as a spiral to total socialism. He has spoken to citizens in Europe and Canada about their universal healthcare and gathered a sense of unhappiness from everyone.

“I don’t think the general public realizes how much of a financial disaster this could be for us in the future,” he said.

Leone believes not only will this bill push a massive amount of doctors over the threshold of early retirement, but also the quality of care will be severely diminished.

David Archer, an SMU sophomore, was aware of the possibility of a healthcare overhaul as he chose the pre-med track. Due the passage of the bill, he has worked even harder to succeed in his studies and plans to find and work in a region of the medical industry that is not regulated by the government.

Leone, a practicing physician of 15 years, predicts those studying medicine now and in the future will aim to work in fields of fee-for-service, like dermatology or plastic surgery, which do not take insurance and are not mandated to accept Medicare, an insurance plan for citizens 65 or older. He believes the more government involvement in healthcare will not lead to either greater patient satisfaction or improved medical outcomes.

“But there are obviously a few number of spots for these types of doctors,” he said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges published the total number of medical school graduates each year, which has increased every year since 2005. In 2010, 16,838 students graduated. Predicting if this trend will continue now that the bill has passed is difficult.

Archer, who aims to be a neurosurgeon, thinks the bill will lower the competitive nature of the field, thus lowering the quality of healthcare Americans will receive.

If the government takes over healthcare, physicians like Leone will be forced to take on more patients for less money, which creates less time to help these people and ultimately lower the quality of care for these people.

Leone also believes the desire to work in internal medicine or family practice fields will decrease because these doctors are paid through reimbursements and if the government takes over the reimbursement payment process, doctors will ultimately get paid less.

Even though the issue of money is a consequence of the bill, Leone, along with Champlian, Ju and Archer, all acknowledge their reasoning for entering the industry is not because of the money.

“A mentor of mine, who is a doctor, told me that people are called to be doctors and that is not something you can ignore,” said Champlain.
“We get into medicine not because we want to make a ton of money and live in mansions, but we do it because we love it and it is incredibly rewarding,” said Ju.

The grueling process of becoming a doctor is not projected to change due to the reform. Students will still be required to study four years in college, four years of medical school, a year of interning, two to ten years of residency, and an optional one to five years of fellowship.

Ju realized the extreme difficulty of his journey to become an internal medicine physician, especially as his friends are in the real world, making a profit while he is racking up debt from student loans.

“I think there is a huge consensus that doctors make too much money but it is hard to judge that if you haven’t walked a day in our shoes,” he said.
Champlain also accepted the decade of school in his near future but is not worried about it. Instead he worries the new bill will take advantage of doctors, especially since these people go to school the longest for a profession. He thinks these factors will influence more young adults to choose a different path, outside the medical industry.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 21.8 percent increase of physicians and surgeons by 2018. The fate of doctors is basically unknown as the health reform completely phases in, which begins in earnest by 2014.

Leone also disagreed with the way President Obama presented the health reform bill, which the American Medical Association backed, to the public.
“Well I am not a member of the AMA and I do not know anybody that I work with in Dallas that is a member of the AMA,” he said.

The AMA is the largest association of physicians and medical students in the United States, around 25% of members are practicing physicians. Their “mission is to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.”

Even though many negative consequences might occur from the bill, Leone, Ju, Champlian and Archer applaud the government for creating a system in which more uninsured Americans may receive healthcare.
There is a consensus of other positive aspects of the bill, including numerous insurance industry reforms. The opportunity for young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26 and the expansion of care for uninsured Americans are two noted aspects of the bill.

Legal challenges are mounting to some portions of the reform bill, including whether all parts of the bill are constitutional. The bill also stands a chance of modification, due to midterm elections. But for now, Champlain, Ju, and Archer will have to continue adapting to the industry regardless of the bill and aim to take full advantage of the overhaul bill.

“Everyone has to accept it, make the best of it and adapt to the changes or get left behind,” he said.

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