Leveraging Debt Relief to Fight the Physician Shortage

By Steve Barrett
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Median medical school graduate debt in 2018 was $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

California is making a $340 million bet it can leverage medical school debt relief both to address a shortage of physicians and encourage more of them to accept patients enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid. That investment will provide up to $300,000 in debt relief to physicians who will commit to allotting a third of their time during the next five years to Medi-Cal patients, The New York Times reports.

The U.S. may have a 120,000-physician shortage by 2030, according to AAMC, and California may be short 4,700 primary care clinicians by 2025, a University of California, San Francisco report found. Many young physicians are opting for higher-paying specialties, according to the Times, because of the skyrocketing costs of medical school. Physicians in California who accept Medi-Cal patients are further burdened by the state’s extremely low reimbursement rate for care provided through the program.

The California initiative, CalHealthCares, is funded with revenue from a state tobacco tax. Physicians selected for the program must provide regular documentation to demonstrate they are fulfilling the requirements, the article notes.