Medical School Student Costs in the U.S. are Affecting Mental Health

A research letter titled “U.S. Medical Students’ Health Insurance Coverage for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association  vol. 306, no.9, pages 931-933, in September 7, 2011, and written by Rachel Nardin and et al. discusses how medical students are often sleep-deprived, depressed, and have thoughts of suicide. This can lead to lack of empathy for their patients and contribute to additional medical errors once they graduate. It can also lead to substance abuse. Even so these medical students are not being adequately treated for their psychiatric disorder or substance abuse due to wanting to avoid adding additional costs to their already substantial debt from school. It is a fact that about 50% of those with a serious mental disorder also suffer from a substance abuse disorder.

The study looked at health insurance offered by 115 of the 129 U.S. medical schools between June and December of 2010. It found that the coverage for mental health varies substantially.

J. Wesley Boyd one of the study authors says via an article published on wbur.org titled Study: Costs keep Med Students From Much-Needed Mental Health Care written by Carey Goldberg and published September 7, 2011, located at http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2011/09/med-students-psych-care/

“Troubled students often resist seeking treatment at the onset of their symptoms, fearing high out-of-pocket costs and an accumulation of more school debt. But with any psychiatric disorder or substance abuse early intervention definitely correlates to better outcomes….mounting debt from long stints at expensive schools weighs very heavily upon the students and most will do anything they can to avoid increasing it…. We need our medical schools to push themselves to provide students with more affordable care. What’s best for the health of our students will result in better physicians and the future wellbeing of their patients.”

I have previously discussed the issue of increasingly out of control costs of college and medical school in the U.S. http://blog.teethremoval.com/astroturfing-and-how-your-thoughts-are-being-manipulated-by-corporate-interests/ and http://blog.teethremoval.com/lets-give-our-kids-a-chance-to-succeed/. Many students graduate after medical school with debts higher than $150,000. Private school debts are naturally higher than those of public schools.  Also see this article http://blog.teethremoval.com/college-conspiracy-and-united-states-hyperinflation/.

Things in the U.K. are very different than in the U.S. with regards to cost. An article titled Patient Safety in the US and UK, Part I: The Doctors written by Bob Watcher and published September 4, 2011, and located at http://community.the-hospitalist.org/2011/09/04/patient-safety-in-the-us-and-uk-part-i-the-doctors/ discusses how in the U.K. medical school students enter a 6 year program right after high school and graduate from their medical school with very little debt. In the U.S. students go to a 4 year college to get an undergraduate degree and then on to a 4 year medical school. With the average student debt of an undergraduate degree of around $27,000 and the average student debt of a medical degree of around $158,000 (depending on the school and if private or public of course)  students in the U.S. can expect a debt of around (if not much more)  $185,000 to become a doctor.

As I have previously discussed on this blog in an earlier post:

“Unfortunately I am beginning to think that the ballooning out of control cost of higher education is a scheme designed by large corporations and special interests so that things such as medical procedures promoted on shaky scientific ground and continuing to lower the definition of various diseases so that more and more drugs can be sold will become more and more the norm since the doctor will be an indentured servant to their debt.”

For medical students who are not being adequately treated for their psychiatric disorder due to expenses, they may want to consider an online psychiatrist as it may offer a convenient and cheaper way to get treatment. Medical students often deal with patients and I am sure that patients want those providing them care to be mentally well. In addition having a better understanding of therapy for future doctors may help both the medical student as they become a full fledged doctor and their patients.

Additional Sources:

http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/medical-student-section/advocacy-policy/medical-student-debt/background.page?

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/16/136214779/college-student-debt-grows-is-it-worth-it

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