This is the perennial question that comes up every time there's a discussion about healthcare costs in the U.S. People look at the statistics of physician income and can't help but verbalize their envy by asking if they are being paid too much money for their work. It's nearly impossible to answer this question as a doctor without sounding defensive.
Therefore, at your next holiday party some wise guy brings up this subject to your face, point them to this article in Forbes magazine. It is written by a retired pediatrician from Georgia and gives a wide ranging, fact based argument for why American doctors make as much as we do.
It goes through everything from the high debt load carried by American medical students, which aren't shared by many of our foreign trained doctors who get their medical education free, to the huge expenses of running a medical practice starting with the litigious nature of our society. It also brings up a couple of points that you may not have thought about before.
Talking heads often complain that the U.S. has the highest per capita costs for healthcare in the world. The writer's retort is, so what? The U.S. is the richest country in the world. We have the highest expenditures of everything from national defense to leisure activity to charity giving. Should we cut back on all those other costs to match other countries?
They also note that American doctors are drawn from the best and brightest students our school system has to offer. These students could literally choose anything else to become yet they decided they wanted to go heavily into debt to help other people while facing the peril of a malpractice lawsuit with every single customer (patient) they encounter. These kids could have gone into a field that pays even more money with less risk of being dragged into court such as a Wall Street trading desk. Instead they chose the longer and harder road of becoming doctors. Wall Street applicants aren't as likely to make it into medical school even if they wanted to.
The article finishes with a quote from the legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko, "Let us talk about medical care and one of the biggest problems we have. That problem is you, my fellow Americans." If it wasn't for all the bad habits carried on by Americans, there wouldn't be so much need for expensive healthcare to keep us alive.
So don't argue with your detractors with raised voices and poor me hardship stories. There are plenty of cold hard facts to refute the ignorance of critics who only look at doctors as the source of the high costs of American medicine rather than looking into a mirror.
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