The most surprising question was about doctors and their decreasing income. Average Americans, as a rule, aren’t that sympathetic with doctors but, it is true that doctors have had a decreasing income for some time. To our government, decreasing Medicare and Medicaid expenditures meant decreasing reimbursement to physicians and hospitals. This has been the standard practice for over 2 decades. A solo family practitioner could make between $150 – $200,000 in the early 1980’s. Now, a solo family doc makes about $156,000 per year. No change. That’s a problem. Then, add in tuition costs for college and medical school. Many of physicians are graduating medical school owing between $100,000 – $250,000. During residency, some loan institutions will allow you to defer payments but, the interest continues to build so you owe even more.
The cost of care is one of the things that really chaps Americans. Just driving by a hospital can cost thousands. Many Americans incorrectly assume that doctors are the major cost in medicine. In a recent study on clinic AIDS patients at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the costs that most people associated with medicine (physician and nursing costs) added up to less than two percent of the patients yearly cost of treatment. Sixty percent of the costs were in medication expenses. Sixty percent!!!
Anyway, the answers that I heard were very interesting. John Edwards is 100% correct that we are going to have … already having a severe nursing shortage. Beds are currently closed at hospitals around the country because there aren’t enough nurses.
Biden’s answer was great. Dodd’s answer was okay. Edwards was great but, he didn’t really answer the question. Clinton really didn’t say anything except that her plan answers something. Obama’s answer is good but not complete (unclear how you can give a complete answer in 30 seconds). Kucinich’s answer for universal Medicare will probably not help doctors but will increase access to health care for many Americans. Governor Richardson’s proposal will not increase reimbursement for physicians and I’m not sure how it will attract more physicians. In my opinion, Senator Biden’s answer was the most complete.