Category Archives: Medical education

Healthcare spending will hit 19.4% of GDP in the next decade, CMS projects; And Where is Healthcare Going?

harris051This past week frustration reigned in my office as I saw more cancer patients in one week than I have ever seen in a week. The big problem is that 2 of these patients with advanced disease have no health care insurance or their insurance that they have will not cover their surgery and further treatment. What to do? Wait for the Democrats running for President to give us Medicare for all??

People have to understand that one of the patients has a type of Medicare, however, her policy will not cover further treatment. Remember this for those of you who still believe that Medicare-for-all will solve all our problems.

The other fairly young patient with advanced cancer has a job but no healthcare insurance. But as a dedicated physician, I am going to operate on her in the office only charging her for supplies, which is probably what I will do for the “Medicare type of coverage.

But doctors can’t do this on a routine basis otherwise they couldn’t pay their bills, pay salaries to their staff and pay for their malpractice, healthcare insurance, pay their mortgage and put food on the table. What then? Less and fewer students would choose to go into medicine and care for us all.

And what happens when both of these patients need chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and or immunotherapy? Who is going to pay for their advanced care?

Harris Meyer reported that Healthcare-spending growth would raise at an annual average of 5.5% over the next decade, slightly faster than in the past few years, due to the aging of the baby boomers and healthcare price growth, the CMS Office of the Actuary projects.
Because that growth will exceed gross domestic product growth, the CMS predicts healthcare’s share of GDP will rise from 17.9% in 2017 to 19.4% in 2027, according to a report in Health Affairs released Wednesday. That’s close to the 19.7% the CMS actuary predicted in its last national health expenditure report a year ago.
Price increases are expected to account for nearly half the growth in personal healthcare spending from 2018 to 2027, with an increase in utilization and intensity of services accounting for an additional third of spending growth. The authors of the report said prices will increase by 2.8% for outpatient prescription drugs, 2.6% for hospitals, and 1.8% for physicians.
Overall outpatient drug spending is projected to increase by an average of 6.1% per year over the next decade, driven by increased utilization of new drugs and a modest increase in prices.
These spending trends could boost public support for policy proposals to regulate prices and boost competition for healthcare services and drugs. For instance, Democratic proposals for Medicare-for-all and public plan options would pay providers at Medicare prices, which generally are significantly lower than what private insurers pay.
“The cost trend will make it easier to fund a Medicare-for-all or public option plan, because the price differential between what Medicare and the private sector pay allows you to save money by paying Medicare rates,” said Gerald Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University.
But he and other experts say the projected spending growth over the next decade—which is sharply less than the 7.3% average annual growth from 1990 to 2007—may not be sufficiently alarming to spur politically thorny policy changes.
“There’s nothing here that ought to catch people by surprise,” said Gail Wilensky, a health economist at Project Hope who formerly served as Medicare administrator. “These (projections) offer no reason to celebrate, but they’re not unreasonable. And they’re probably higher than what we’ll actually see because there will be public or private-sector interventions of some sort.”
The projected 5.5% annual rate of growth from 2018 to 2017 would exceed the 5.3% rate during the Affordable Care Act coverage expansion period from 2014 to 2016, as well as the 3.9% growth rate during the Great Recession period of 2008-2013.

Medicare spending is expected to grow faster than Medicaid or private insurance spending due to the aging of the large Baby Boom population into the program, peaking this year. That will produce a 7.4% average annual Medicare spending growth rate over the next decade, compared with 5.5% for Medicaid and 4.8% for private insurance.
Medicaid expenditures will rise partly because of the new Medicaid expansions in Maine and Virginia and expected expansions in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah.
Per-capita spending growth rates for Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are expected to be similar, at 4.7%, 4.1%, and 4.6%, respectively.
The 2017 congressional repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s penalty for not buying insurance, effective this year, will moderate national health spending growth by reducing private insurance enrollment, the report said. That repeal is projected to result in a net increase in the number of uninsured Americans by 1.3 million, to 31.2 million in 2019.
Still, 90.6% of Americans are expected to have coverage in 2019, down from 90.9% last year.
Overall price inflation for healthcare goods and services is expected to average 2.5% over the next decade, compared with 1.1% for 2014 to 2017. The CMS actuaries said prices will rise at least partly because of the weakening of restraining factors such as patient cost sharing, selective contracting by insurers, and improvements in productivity in physicians’ offices.
“Half the growth in spending will be price growth in spite of the fact that all these Baby Boomers are entering Medicare,” said Anderson, citing a famous 2003 Health Affairs article he co-authored. “It’s still the prices, stupid.”
Hospital spending will grow an average of 5.7% per year over the next decade, up from 5.1% in 2019, the actuaries said. Hospital prices will rise due to tighter labor markets and continued wage increases for hospital employees, including nurses.
Average annual spending growth for physician and clinical services is projected at 5.4% for the coming decade, as physician pay is driven up by the shortage of doctors to meet the needs of the aging population.
The economists in the Office of the Actuary who wrote the report acknowledged that their projections can be off for various reasons. For instance, last year they projected that healthcare spending in 2018 would increase by 5.3%. In their new report, they projected spending in 2018 grew only 4.4%.
Sean Keehan, one of the authors, said the 2018 projected spending growth was lowered in the new report due to slower-than-expected Medicaid enrollment and spending increases, smaller out-of-pocket spending hikes, and a more sluggish jump in prescription drug costs.
Anderson said the overall takeaway from the new CMS report is that the U.S. still hasn’t seriously bent the cost growth curve. “There’s no turndown,” he said. “We keep waiting for that turning point and the actuaries aren’t seeing that turning point at least through 2027.”

So, what do we do? Do we listen to the Democrats running for President and wrap our arms around Medicare for All or do we fix the Affordable Care Act or do we design another system?

Seattle Mayor signs Medicare-for-all resolution

Can the left’s ‘free-for-all’ Medicare work?

Fox News Brie Stimson noted that as the national health care debate rages on, Seattle has decided to support Medicare-for-all.

Last month, Seattle Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced a bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2019, that would transition Americans to single-payer government-paid health care but does not explain how the government will pay for the plan.

This week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a City Council resolution in support of Jayapal’s bill, making Seattle the first city to back a Medicare-for-all bill.

COST OF ‘MEDICARE-FOR-ALL’ HEALTH CARE PLAN IS ‘A LITTLE SCARY,’ DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN CHIEF SAYS

“The U.S. has among the worst health outcomes in the developed world despite spending roughly 19 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) on health care,” Seattle Council member. Lorena González said in a statement. “A single-payer system would improve health outcomes while lowering the cost of medical care and insurance.”

Editorial: Medicare for All isn’t the only way to go

Merrill Goozner reported that Healthcare providers and insurers are gearing up to oppose Medicare for All. No surprise there. Insurers can’t look kindly on legislation that would put them out of business. And providers are deathly afraid of losing the high rates from private insurers that cross-subsidize government-funded patients.

But at the same time as they mobilize to defeat M4A, shouldn’t they be outlining what they support?

Here’s what M4A advocates want to achieve. The first is universal coverage. Sadly, we’re again moving away from this basic human right due to actions by the Trump administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act. They want lower prices. Insurance premiums for employers and out-of-pocket expenses for individuals and families continue to rise faster than wages or economic growth.

Finally, they want an end to the frustration engendered by a system that erects roadblocks between physicians and patients. These range from insurer rules requiring prior authorization to seemingly arbitrary limits on what doctors can perform or prescribe.

Is M4A the only way to solve these problems? Of course not. When it comes to covering the uninsured, the ACA worked just fine. Massachusetts, the first state to implement an ACA-like program, had an uninsured rate of 2.5% in 2017. That’s not the 0% of most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, but pretty close.

Politics are at the root of the ACA’s failures—not its Rube Goldberg design. The Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. And when the GOP-controlled Congress eliminated the individual mandate, key to making rates on the exchanges affordable, it reduced sign-ups, raised premiums and stopped the expansion dead in its tracks.

How about service prices? M4A would set prices at Medicare rates, which are well below private insurance rates but higher than Medicaid rates (both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are eliminated in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ M4A bill). But that’s not where most of its savings come from.

According to a sympathetic analysis from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, half of M4A’s savings come from reducing provider and insurer administrative overhead. Another quarter comes from lower drug prices.

But these are one-time savings that will do little to stop the upward spiral of hospital and physician costs, which account for two-thirds of all spending. That’s where we get to the third issue supposedly addressed by M4A: the administrative hassles and limits imposed on obtaining care.

These aren’t eliminated by an expanded public system. They simply transfer the policing of waste, fraud, and abuse from private hands to public hands and change the motivation from padding profits to protecting taxpayers. In the past, Medicare has done a better job than private payers for one simple reason: it can impose price controls. Providers have responded by shifting much of the shortfall to their private-paying patients.

There are alternatives for achieving M4A’s goals. They include private companies offering exchange policies with well-defined coverage rules and strict limits on out-of-pocket costs; all-payer rate-setting or global budgets to slow the rate of price increases; merging Medicaid with Medicare (leaving long-term services and supports to the states), which would give private employers and families rate and tax relief; and establishing all-stakeholder oversight councils to develop medically appropriate utilization rules.

There’s more. The point is that in the post-Trump era, the U.S. will once again begin moving toward a healthcare system that is universal and affordable with high-quality care for everyone.

A multipayer approach could be like Germany and Switzerland, which rely on private insurers that are regulated to a much greater extent than currently exists in the U.S. Or it will be a single-payer system like Canada, Great Britain or France. Each delivers better results at a lower cost than the U.S.

I’m agnostic on which way to go. I’m still waiting for providers and insurers to articulate their vision.

Some ‘Cheaper’ Health Plans Have Surprising Costs

Julie Appleby reports that one health plan from a well-known insurer promises lower premiums — but warns that consumers may need to file their own claims and negotiate overcharges from hospitals and doctors. Another does away with annual deductibles — but requires policyholders to pay extra if they need certain surgeries and procedures.

Both are among the latest efforts in a seemingly endless quest by employers, consumers, and insurers for an elusive goal: less expensive coverage.

Premiums for many of these plans, which are sold outside the exchanges set up under Affordable Care Act, tend to be 15 to 30 percent lower than conventional offerings, but they put a larger burden on consumers to be savvy shoppers. The offerings tap into a common underlying frustration.

“Traditional health plans have not been able to stem high-cost increases, so people are tearing down the model and trying something different,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, health management practice leader for benefits consultants Willis Towers Watson.

Not everyone is eligible for a subsidy to defray the cost of an ACA plan, and that has led some people to experiment with new ways to pay their medical expenses. Those experiments include short-term policies or alternatives like Christian-sharing ministries — which are not insurance at all, but rather cooperatives through which members pay one another’s bills.

Now some insurers — such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and a Minnesota startup called Bind Benefits, which is partnering with UnitedHealth Group — are coming up with their own novel offerings.

Insurers say the two new types of plans meet the ACA’s rules, although they interpret those rules in new ways. For example, the new policies avoid the federal law’s rule limiting consumers’ annual in-network limit on out-of-pocket costs. One policy manages that by having no network — patients are free to find providers on their own. And the other skirts the issue by calling additional charges “premiums.” Under ACA rules, premiums don’t count toward the out-of-pocket maximum.

But each plan could leave patients with huge costs in a system in which it is extremely difficult for a patient to be a smart shopper — in part because they have little negotiating power against big hospital systems and partly because the illness is often urgent and unanticipated.

If these alternative plans prompt doctors and hospitals to lower prices, “then that is worth taking a closer look,” says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “But if it’s simply another flavor of shifting more risk to employees, I don’t think in the long term, that’s going to bend the cost curve.”

Balancing freedom, control, and responsibility

The North Carolina Blue Cross Blue Shield “My Choice” policies aim to change the way doctors and hospitals are paid by limiting reimbursement for services to 40 percent above what Medicare would pay. The plan has no specific network of doctors and hospitals.

This approach “puts you in control to see the doctor you want,” the insurer says on its website. The plan is available to individuals who buy their own insurance and to small businesses with one to 50 employees. It’s aimed at consumers who cannot afford ACA plans, says Austin Vevurka, a spokesman for the insurer. The policies are not sold on the ACA’s insurance marketplace but can be purchased off-exchange from brokers.

With that freedom, however, consumers also have the responsibility to shop around for providers who will accept that amount of reimbursement for their services. Consumers who don’t shop — or can’t because their medical need is an emergency — may get “balance-billed” by providers who are unsatisfied with the flat amount the plan pays.

“There’s an incentive to comparison-shop to find a provider who accepts the benefit,” says Vevurka.

The cost of balance bills range widely but could be thousands of dollars in the case of hospital care. Consumer exposure to balance bills is not capped by the ACA for out-of-network care.

“There are a lot of people for whom a plan like this would present financial risk,” says Levin-Scherz.

In theory, though, paying 40 percent above Medicare rates could help drive down costs over time if enough providers accept those payments. That’s because hospitals currently get about double Medicare rates through their negotiations with insurers.

“It’s a bold move,” says Mark Hall, director of the health law and policy program at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Still, he says, it’s “not an optimal way” because patients generally don’t want to negotiate with their doctor on prices.

“But it’s an innovative way to put matters into the hands of patients as consumers,” Hall says. “Let them deal directly with providers who insist on charging more than 140 percent of Medicare.”

Blue Cross spokesman Vevurka says My Choice has telephone advisers to help patients find providers and offer tips on how to negotiate a balance bill. He would not disclose enrollment numbers for My Choice, which launched Jan. 1, nor would he say how many providers have indicated they will accept the plan’s payment levels.

Still, the idea — based on what is sometimes called “reference pricing” or “Medicare plus” — is gaining attention. Under that method, hospitals are paid a rate based on what Medicare pays, plus an additional percentage to allow them a modest profit.

North Carolina’s state treasurer, for example, hopes to put state workers into such a pricing plan by next year, offering to pay 177 percent of Medicare. The plan has ignited a firestorm of opposition from hospitals in the state.

Montana recently got its hospitals to agree to such a plan for state workers, paying 234 percent of Medicare, on average.

Partly because of concerns about balance-billing, employers aren’t rushing to buy into Medicare-plus pricing just yet, says Jeff Long, a health care actuary at Lockton Companies, a benefits consultancy.

Wider adoption, however, could spell its end.

Hospitals might agree to participate in a few such programs, but “if there’s more take up on this, I see hospitals possibly starting to fight back,” Long says.

What about the bind?

Minnesota startup Bind Benefits eliminates annual deductibles in its “on-demand” plans sold to employers that are opting to self-insure their workers’ health costs. Rather than deductibles, patients pay flat-dollar copayments for a core set of medical services, from doctor visits to prescription drugs.

In some ways, it’s simpler: There is no need to spend through the deductible before coverage kicks in or wonder what 20 percent of the cost of a doctor visit or surgery would be.

But not all services are included. Does this sound familiar? As I started this post with my examples…ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem!!

Patients who discover during the year that they need any of about 30 common procedures outlined in the plan, including several types of back surgery, knee arthroscopy or coronary artery bypass, must “add in” coverage, spread out over time in deductions from their paychecks.

“People are used to that concept, to buy what they need,” said Bind CEO Tony Miller. “When I need more, I buy more.”

According to a company spokeswoman, the add-in costs vary by market, procedure, and provider. On the lower end, the cost for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy ranges from $900 to $3,000, while lumbar spine fusion could range from $5,000 to $10,000.

To set those additional premiums, Bind analyzes how much doctors and facilities are paid, along with some quality measures from several sources, including UnitedHealth. The add-in premiums paid by patients vary depending on whether they choose lower-cost providers or more expensive ones.

The ACA’s 2019 out-of-pocket maximums — $7,900 for an individual or $15,800 for a family — don’t include premium costs.

The Cumberland School District in Wisconsin switched from a traditional plan, which it purchased from an insurer for about $1.7 million last year, to Bind. Six months in, according to the school district’s superintendent, Barry Rose, the plan is working well.

Right off the bat, he says, the district saved about $200,000. More savings could come over the year if workers choose lower-cost alternatives for the “add-in” services.

“They can become better consumers because they can see exactly what they’re paying for care,” Rose says.

Levin-Scherz at Willis Towers says the idea behind Bind is intriguing but raises some concerns for employers.

What happens, he asks, if a worker has an add-in surgery, owes several thousand dollars, and then changes jobs before paying all the premiums for that add-in coverage? “Will the employee be sent a bill after leaving?” he wonders.

A Bind spokeswoman says the former employee would not pay the remaining premiums in that case. Instead, the employer would be stuck with the bill.

Next week back to finding a way to improve the Affordable Care Act/ Obamacare.

Free tuition for all NYU medical students – a $55,018-a-year surprise but a Possible Solution!

38940385_1662028083926844_2145790176754925568_nSo, finally, medical schools, or really one medical school, is looking at one important aspect of the cost of healthcare and an impediment to a sustainable single-payer system, affordable healthcare or whatever you may want to call health care for all and now with the midterm elections around the corner.

Joel Shannon of USA TODAY wrote that all current and future students enrolled in New York University School of Medicine’s MD degree program will receive full-tuition scholarships, the school announced Thursday.

The scholarships are granted independently of merit or financial need for all enrolled students, the university said. Sticker price for tuition at the school is $55,018 a year.

The school has an acceptance rate of 6 percent, according to Princeton Review.

Students will still be responsible for books, fees, housing and other costs. The school estimates those education and living-related expenses will total about $27,000 for a 10-month term.

“No more tuition … The day they get their diploma, they owe nobody nothing,” said Kenneth G. Langone, the board of trustees chairman for NYU Langone Medical Center. The center is named for Langone and his wife, Elaine.

“(Students) walk out of here unencumbered, looking at a future where they can do what their passion tells them.” The school announced the news in a surprise end to its White Coat Ceremony, where new students receive lab coats. NYU Langone says Thursday’s announcement comes as the medical community reckons with the moral impact of higher education costs.

Medical students who face debt burdens that can reach well into six figures may be more likely to pick lucrative specialties, which may not be in the public’s interest, a release from NYU Langone says. The cost can also discourage some students from pursuing a career in the medical field at all.

The increasing cost of higher education has sparked action from employers, politicians, and schools around the country. Often those efforts are focused on financial need, as in the case of a “debt-free graduation” program announced by Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in April.

The move—which it said was financed by the generosity of the university’s “trustees, alumni, and friends,” amounts to a reduction of $55,018 in annual fees, regardless of financial needs or academic merit. It does not cover living and administrative costs averaging $27,000 a year. So, it isn’t entirely free!!

“A population as diverse as ours is best served by doctors from all walks of life, we believe, and aspiring physicians and surgeons should not be prevented from pursuing a career in medicine because of the prospect of overwhelming financial debt,” said Dr. Robert Grossman, dean of the NYU School of Medicine.

In its statement, NYU also pointed out that high student debt was putting graduates off pursuing less lucrative specializations including pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median debt of a graduating medical student in the US is $202,000—while 21 percent of doctors who graduate from a private school such as NYU face over $300,000.

“Our hope—and expectation—is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” said Kenneth Langone, chair of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health.

Thursday’s announcement came as a surprise ending to the school’s annual white coat ceremony, which marks the start of first-year students’ medical careers. Those 93 students will benefit from the scholarship, along with 350 others enrolled further along in the program.

NYU said it is the only top 10-ranked medical school in the US to offer such an initiative and I believe that their acceptance rate is 6% of applicants!!!

Rising higher education costs have led some to question the value of college broadly. More than half of undergrads do not think the “value of a college education has kept up with the cost,” a July Ascent Student Loans study found.

5 Key Questions About NYU’s Tuition-Free Policy for Medical School

Beckie Supiano in the consideration of free tuition at NYU Medical School added with pertinent questions. In these days of near-universal concern about tuition prices and student-loan debt, colleges promote new affordability efforts pretty frequently. But when New York University announced on Thursday that it would offer full-tuition scholarships to “all current and future students” in its doctor-of-medicine program “regardless of need or merit,” it left college-pricing experts a bit stunned.

“It’s hard to fathom how you go from charging this high price to zero,” said Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow in the Education Policy Program at the Urban Institute, who wondered if the program would even, be sustainable. NYU has said it would raise $600 million to endow the effort, which it estimates will cost $24 million a year.

Announcing that a program will be tuition-free is guaranteed to make a splash, said Lucie Lapovsky, a principal of Lapovsky Consulting and a former college president. “It’s a much clearer message,” she said, than a price cut or waiving tuition for particular students. “It’s a bold move.”

In its announcement, the medical school — among the top-ranked in the country — cast going tuition-free as a way to address two concerns: the lack of socioeconomic diversity among medical students, and their tendency to choose prestigious and well-paid specialties that don’t align with the need to provide basic health care in large swaths of the country.

Could NYU’s program move the needle on those problems? And what lessons might it offer higher ed more generally? Let’s consider some key questions.

Why don’t more institutions do something like this?

Plenty of commenters on social media wanted to know why other medical schools — or colleges generally — don’t stop charging tuition. The short answer? “If enough money drops out of a helicopter, they can,” said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. Few of the country’s colleges, he pointed out, have institutional endowments as large as the $600 million that NYU is raising just for this effort and my question is it sustainable in the future?

Few colleges have the same fund-raising opportunities, either, said Amy Li, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Northern Colorado. The alumni base of an elite private university’s medical school has unusually deep pockets.

Another reason most colleges won’t waive tuition: They need this revenue to keep the lights on. Among the many data points, the federal government collects in its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System is one that looks at how much of an institution’s core revenue comes from tuition. Not many colleges could feasibly abandon that income stream, said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management and marketing at DePaul University, who has analyzed those data.

“Harvard could,” Baum said. “It would sound great, but it wouldn’t be socially beneficial.”

Even the Harvards of the world use the tuition revenue they bring in, and they spend it on things that presumably make the educational experience they provide worthwhile to the many families that can and do pay full price to attend. They also offer significant financial aid to support their less-advantaged undergraduates. At such colleges, this category refers to family incomes that reach into the six figures.

But even a student paying full freight at Harvard is receiving a subsidy from the endowment, said Donald Hossler, a senior scholar at the Center for Enrollment Research Policy at the University of Southern California’s education school. Their tuition is expensive, but it doesn’t cover what the university is spending to educate them.

Endowments also come with strings, Boeckenstedt said: “People think of endowments as a big pool of money you can use to do whatever you want,” but most of the funds are set aside for specific purposes.

Could NYU’s announcement pressure other institutions to try something similar? Higher education is a competitive industry, so other top medical schools no doubt have taken notice. While they are likely to do something in response, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll try to replicate the program, experts said.

While elite medical schools are already out there asking for donations, NYU’s announcement might push them to consider raising money for an affordability initiative — which is bound to receive lots of favorable buzz — instead of launching yet another cancer-research center, said Boeckenstedt.

“It’ll be interesting to see if other schools jump on the bandwagon,” said Lapovsky, who suspects that other med schools will be inclined to show that they, too, are doing something to promote affordability.

The financial pressures of becoming a doctor weigh disproportionately on women and underrepresented minorities, she said. And those are two populations that medical schools may be especially keen to attract.

NYU’s program is expensive and hard to replicate, Baum said. If it had instead reduced the price for low-income students, the idea would stand a better chance of being adopted by more medical schools, much the way “no loan” financial-aid policies, in which loans are not included in the aid packages of some or all undergraduates, have become ubiquitous among elite colleges.

Colleges will probably also discuss the possibility of an undergraduate version of the program, Hossler said. But he doesn’t expect that to result in the birth of “no tuition” programs at the undergraduate level. A boost in financial aid, he thought, is more likely.

Is this the best way to spend $600 million? Baum, for one, was struck by the fact that, out of all the students it educates, NYU had decided to raise this much money to support medical students — a group that’s disproportionately likely to both come from and ends up in the high end of the income spectrum. After all, she pointed out, NYU often finds itself in the news for the significant loan burden faced by its undergraduates.

A $600-million effort could go a long way, she said, toward making their education more affordable. “You have to ask, from a university perspective, what their priorities are.”

Even if the goal were to help medical students, in particular, Baum said, NYU’s program is untargeted. There’s no requirement that students be low-income to have their tuition waived. An effort that raised $600 million for scholarships that low-income students could use at the medical school of their choice, she said, would do a great deal more to improve the profession’s diversity.

But it’s not as if the university got to decide its donors’ intentions, Lapovsky said. Given the apparent interest of big donors in supporting medical-school affordability, she said, this was “an exciting way to do it.”

When policymakers design a program that will use tax dollars, it makes sense to ask whether they’re using those dollars as efficiently as possible, said Beth Akers, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute. But that concern is not as pressing when private donors are putting their own money toward something they value.

Will this make the NYU medical school’s student body more diverse?

One medical school getting rid of tuition might not much change the socioeconomic diversity of the country’s doctors. Still, diversity is an important goal in its own right: Colleges argue that all students receive a better education when their classmates come from varied backgrounds.

But would NYU’s new scholarships make the med school itself more diverse? It could go either way. Going tuition-free could make diversity harder for NYU’s medical school to achieve, Hossler said. The school is bound to see an increase in applications and to receive applications from even more of the country’s top applicants. Whatever other factors its admissions process might consider, it’s not easy to turn away applicants with top grades and test scores, Hossler said. And for a host of reasons that may have little to do with ability, students from financially privileged backgrounds are more likely to have those.

Kelchen is more optimistic. With a larger pool of students to choose from and no revenue expectations, NYU’s medical school would have more power to shape its class as it sees fit. If it wanted to become more diverse, he thinks, it could.

A parallel can be found in elite colleges’ “no loan” policies. They come in two main flavors, said Kelly Rosinger, an assistant professor of education-policy studies at Pennsylvania State University, who has studied them.

Some colleges stopped packaging loans for all students, while others designed their programs for students with family incomes up to a certain cap. In neither case, Rosinger and her co-authors found did the programs do much to increase the enrollment of low-income students.

The universal programs, however, did bring in more middle and upper-middle income students. “I sort of worry,” Rosinger said, “about the same thing happening at the graduate level.” Enrollment at graduate and professional schools is already less socioeconomically diverse than at the undergraduate level, Rosinger said. “The barriers to elite education,” she said, “aren’t just financial.”

Perhaps NYU’s program could chip away at some of those other barriers, Lapovsky said. The university is now in a position to be able to tell younger students who assumed that medical school was financially out of reach that it need not be.

Will the decision change the career choices of NYU’s medical graduates? One thing NYU’s program does is send a signal that the medical school has an interest in its graduates’ paths beyond their prestige or earnings potential, Akers said. “Society can value things in a different way than the market values them.”

In its news release, NYU cited sobering statistics about medical students’ debt: 75 percent of them graduate in debt, with a median burden of more than $200,000. Such debt loads, some in the profession worry, push graduates into high-paid specializations at the expense of general practice.

NYU’s medical school is not the first entity to worry that starting out in that kind of hole might shape students’ career choices. “The federal government already has a program that’s supposed to help doctors go into general practice,” Kelchen said. “It’s called income-driven repayment.”

Indeed, Baum said, because of their high debt levels, many doctors will see a significant portion of their loans forgiven under the government’s income-driven repayment and public-service loan-forgiveness programs. Besides, she said, while $200,000 sounds like a lot of money, it’s dwarfed by the earnings difference between, say, pediatricians and neurosurgeons. Money is probably a factor in doctors’ decisions of what to specialize in, but education loans are just a small piece of that financial equation.

Our doctors are too educated. Should We Reform Our Education System?

Dr. Akhilesh Pathipati at Massachusetts Eye and Ear related his feeling on the education of our doctors. I had just finished an eye examination for one of my patients and swiveled around to the computer. It was clear that he needed cataract surgery; he was nearly blind despite his Coke-bottle glasses. But even before I logged in to the scheduling system, I knew what I was going to find: He wouldn’t be able to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist for more than three months. Everyone’s schedule was full.

Moments like these are far too common in medicine. An aging population with numerous health needs and a declining physician workforce has combined to create a physician shortage — the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortfall of up to 100,000 doctors by 2030.

Policymakers have proposed many solutions, from telemedicine to increasing the scope of nurse practitioners. But I can think of another: Let students complete school and see patients earlier. U.S. physicians average 14 years of higher education (four years of college, four years of medical school and three to eight years to specialize in a residency or fellowship). That’s much longer than in other developed countries, where students typically study for 10 years. It also translates to millions of dollars and hours spent by U.S. medical students listening to lectures on topics they already know, doing clinical electives in fields they will not pursue and publishing papers no one will read.

Decreasing the length of training would immediately add thousands of physicians to the workforce. At the same time, it would save money that could be reinvested in creating more positions in medical schools and residencies. It would also allow more students to go into lower-paying fields such as primary care, where the need is greatest.

These changes wouldn’t decrease the quality of our education. Medical education has many inefficiencies, but two opportunities for reform stand out. First, we should consolidate medical school curriculums. The traditional model consists of two years of classroom-based learning on the science of medicine (the preclinical years), followed by two years of clinical rotations, during which we work in hospitals.

Both phases could be shortened. In my experience, close to half of the preclinical content was redundant. Between college and medical school, I learned the Krebs cycle (a process that cells use to generate energy) six times. Making college premedical courses more relevant to medicine could condense training considerably.

Meanwhile, the second clinical year is primarily electives and free time. I recently spoke with a friend going into radiology who did a dermatology elective. While he enjoyed learning about rashes, we concluded it did little for his education.

In the past decade, several schools have shown the four-year model can be cut to three. For instance, New York University offers an accelerated medical degree with early, conditional admission into its residency programs. The model remains controversial. Critics contend that three years is not enough time to learn medicine. Yet a review of eight medical schools with three-year programs suggests graduates have similar test scores and clinical performance to those who take more time.

Finally, we can reform required research projects. Research has long been intertwined with medical training. Nearly every medical school offers student projects, and more than one-third require them. Many residencies do as well. Students have responded: The number pursuing nondegree research years doubled between 2000 and 2014, and four-year graduation rates reached a record low. Rather than shortening training, U.S. medical education is becoming longer. The additional years aren’t even spent on patient care.

Done right, this could still be a valuable investment. Intellectual curiosity and inquiry drive scientific progress. But that’s not why most students take research years. I conducted a study showing that less than a quarter do so because of an interest in the subject matter. The most common reason was instead to increase their competitiveness for residency applications.

And because having more research published represents greater achievement in academic medicine, students are presented with a bad incentive to publish a large amount of low-quality research. Many of my peers have recognized this, producing more papers than many faculty members. It’s no surprise that there has been an exponential increase in student publications in the past few decades, even though a majority are never cited.

Medical schools need to realign incentives. This starts with the recognition that students can do valuable work even if it doesn’t end up in a journal. It’s time we get them out of school and in front of patients.

Another  Suggestion-Training U.S. doctors faster by cutting out college                                                                                                                               Abdullah Nasser, a neurobiology degree candidate at Harvard University related something the most foreign schools have found that the U.S.A. education for physicians is flawed. Consider two young people, similar in many respects. Both were outstanding secondary school students. Both wanted to help others. Both dreamed of becoming doctors and worked very hard to achieve that goal.

One took his SATs in high school and was accepted by his state university. He fulfilled his premedical requirements while pursuing a liberal arts degree in biology. After four years, he took the Medical College Admission Test and, following graduation, spent a year volunteering in rural Kenya to improve his odds of getting into medical school. He then applied and was accepted, matriculating as a first-year medical student at age 25.                                                 By that time, the second young person had already earned the right to have the letters MD after her name. In fact, she had graduated from medical school two years earlier and was well on her way to opening her own clinic. Over her lifetime, she can expect to practice medicine for four to five more years than her peer.    The only difference between them? The first person is American, while the second is British. Their stories are not the exception; they are the norm in their respective countries.

Medical degrees in the United States are being issued to older and older students. Data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges show that the percentage of first-year medical school students who are age 24 or younger has gone from 75 percent in 2001 to 50 percent last year. The average age of these first-year students in 2011 was 23 for women and 24 for men, a whopping five to six years older than our British friends — and most of the rest of the world.

A majority of the world’s countries, including Brazil, China, and Denmark, considers an MD to be an undergraduate degree. Five to six years after receiving their high school diplomas (or their national equivalent), students in these countries are seeing real patients while their U.S. counterparts are still struggling with verbal-comprehension passages on the MCAT. It is time for the United States to recognize the traditional pre-med path for what it is: a colossal waste of time and potential that is costing this nation millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Proponents of the status quo often argue that U.S.-educated doctors are renowned for their excellence and professionalism, but there is little evidence that earning an undergraduate degree before medical school produces better or more mature doctors. Put another way, there is no reason to believe that U.S. doctors are “better” than French, Finnish or German doctors — all of whom enrolled in medical programs straight out of high school. But there is some evidence that U.S. doctors may be worse. An international study in 2007 estimated the rate of medical errors in the United States to be higher than that in the six other countries examined: Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Others might argue that U.S. high school graduates are not prepared for the international approach to medical training. But performance on Advanced Placement tests suggests a growing minority would be able to handle the medical school course load.

A reasonable, and relatively cheap, way to address the issue is to allow a two-stream medical education system: one stream — similar to what we have now — for college-graduate entry into medical school; and one that is slightly longer for students straight out of high school (say, five or six years). This sort of model has been shown to work in several countries, including Australia and Britain.

Some U.S. medical schools, notably including New York University’s, are revamping their curriculums and offering shorter paths to graduation. This is a change in the right direction. The hybrid approach too would allow the United States to catch up with the rest of the world and reduce the critical demand for doctors without increasing our reliance on doctors with degrees from other countries or pushing our medical schools to their limit and would decrease the cost of medical education. How important is that? Consider that when Bernie Sanders suggests that Medicare for All can be financed partially by reducing salaries to our practicing physicians!!

My prediction is that NYU, as well as other medical schools that adopt a tuition-free policy will not have the sustainable endowment for future classes and the state government, will be forced to shoulder the burden. And there go our taxes!!