Why Medicine Sucks in '96*

In a post attacking nationalized health care, Sebastian Holsclaw says something that's simply wrong:

It takes a lot of work to become a doctor. It takes a lot of time and effort. Few people are going to put the time in if they aren't well compensated.

It just ain't true. In France, physicians make about $55,000 (US dollars), around 1/3rd what American doctors make. So is there an enormous doctor shortage? Not in the least. France has 3.3 practicing physicians per 1,000 residents, America has 2.4.

This is a common and, frankly, inexplicable oversight opponents of nationalized health care make. So let's say it slow: money is not the sole factor dictating occupational choices. Enormous swarms of folks sign up for endless years of education in order to make paltry sums in academia. I'm heading to Washington to -- hopefully! -- make an absurdly low wage as a writer. And you know what? I don't expect that I'll ever make much money in the profession. People go work for NGO's, in politics, as social workers, and on and on, none of it for the money. Lifestyle, internal satisfaction, passion for the profession, and a host of other non-monetary factors weigh heavily on occupational choice.

If doctors were only entering the field for the money, that'd be a shame. But they're not. In fact, many of them are leaving it due to work conditions. Considering the number who complain about the total hell that the medical profession has turned into, I'd guess a pretty high percentage would take a paycut in exchange for an end to haggling with insurance companies and filling out forms (the average Canadian doctor's office spends two hours a week on billing, the average American office spends 30). It's not all about money and we shouldn't assume that just because we pay doctors princely sums, that doing so is an immutable law of sustaining a professional medical class. It just isn't so.

* If you know the song, you know the answer.

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