As a third year medical student at the Unviersity of Miami Miller School of Medicine with parents strongly considering a move from the Sunshine State to the Old Line State, your piece on the hidden loss for primary care (“Primary care’s hidden loss,” Sept. 29) was well received — that is, until the end. The physician workforce issue is one that I have been passionate about since entering medical school. It clearly must be dealt with in order to successfully achieve health care reform. If we are going to extend insurance to more people, we must train more physicians to care for them or face decreased access via increased wait times. This is clearly demonstrated in Massachuesetts where politicians from both parties champion the fact that 97 percent of their residents are insured. What they fail to mention is that, on average, it takes 51 days to see a cardiologist in Boston compared to a nationwide average of about 3 weeks. Residency programs throughout the United States have not increased since 1997 despite population increases and shifts between states. And physicians continue to choose to specialize with the hope of providing high quality care while still achieving financial security for their families. All of these important facts are clearly documented in the article.
However, closing with medical student Nidhi Goel’s self-proclaimed “bleeding heart liberal” views on health care reform without presenting those of medical students with different opinions gives the impression that all medical students favor government-run health care. This, of course, is false. As a self-identified Reagan Republican, I believe health care costs can be contained while access is expanded and quality is improved by empowering patients and doctors to make the choices that are best for them. Tort reform could provide massive savings, as the Pacific Research Institute estimates defensive medicine wastes $200 billion dollars each year. Taxing employer health benefits and returning the money to the employees to purchase their own insurance would empower patients to choose plans that meet their needs while simultaneously making their plan of choice completely portable. Additionally, allowing the purchase of said plans across state lines would immediately create a robust market of choices.
So you see, medical students have opinions as diverse as our physician counterparts. The Baltimore Sun would do well to represent us all.
Nicholas J. Rohrhoff, Sarasota, Fla.