Throughout the presidential debates, campaigns and now the pandemic, healthcare has become a hot-button issue. Self-proclaimed Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders has painted an idyllic picture of what he believes healthcare should be in America: universal coverage for everyone with low to no out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions or copays. On the surface, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but what few talk about — Democrats or Republicans — are some of the problems that impact medical professionals in transitioning to this socialized haven.
As an aspiring physician myself, there have been many potential issues that I see with this proposed model.
First is the issue of doctor shortages. With baby boomers nearing retirement age, a large outflow of doctors are leaving the profession, which is leaving many more openings than what can currently be filled. With an average medical school debt of $201,490 and the extreme competitiveness to obtain acceptance into virtually any medical school, it wards off a lot of potential doctors. Some justify this burden by being able to pay off the six-figure debt through the handsome salaries that they could potentially earn. Physician salaries in the U.S. are among the highest in the world, while countries that have socialized medicine pay their doctors a fraction of the salary.
According to MedScape, the average doctor in the U.S. makes $381,000 per year compared to the next highest-paid doctors. German doctors earn $163,000 per year, and the United Kingdom’s physicians make around $138,000 USD per year. The best-paid doctors in Europe make under half of what the average American doctors do.
With the introduction of universal healthcare, current physicians could see a large pay cut, and potential medical students would think twice about taking on that much debt as they would not be able to pay it off as quickly. This would require a total overhaul in the secondary education system where all undergraduate and graduate studies are paid, which is a tall order for the current state of public universities funding.
We as Americans are also accustomed to a certain experience while at a hospital — nice accommodations, short wait times, etc. In a video by PragerU, a Canadian citizen spoke about how his pregnant wife, who had a high-risk pregnancy, had to wait several days to get an ultrasound for two reasons: the ultrasound machine was all booked up, and ultrasound technicians in hospitals don’t work on weekends. In the U.S., that would be completely unacceptable. In countries where socialized medicine takes precedent, wait times are extremely long. Going from a setting where care is administered quickly and in a lovely setting to something quite the opposite would certainly face backlash and frustration from many Americans.
I am not saying that privatized healthcare is perfect. It certainly has room for improvement, but socialized healthcare is not the answer. Congress needs to put their differences aside and work together to improve the healthcare system in this country.
Helen Claire McNulty is a senior biology major from Holland, Michigan, and West Palm Beach, Florida.