Should med school be free in Canada? - Macleans.ca
 

Should med school be free in Canada?

A solution to Canada’s doctor shortage?


 

Could Canada’s health care crisis be solved by making medical school free?

An article in the New York Times argues that huge debts are part of the reason why many doctors pursue highly paid specialties rather than primary care. In other words, the high cost of med school is funneling new doctors away from the places we need them most—namely, as general practitioners.

According to the article, in addition to shifting more doctors into primary care, making medical school free would also attract more college graduates who are discouraged by the huge costs.

The article notes that there have been other attempts to shift doctors towards primary care. Here in Canada, Manitoba medical students can have their tuition fully paid if they agree to work in areas-in-need. It’s part of a strategy to help every Manitoban find a family doctor by 2015.

Of course, the article is focused on American medical schools, which charge more (and sometimes significantly more) tuition than their Canadian counterparts. On average, it’s $38,000 per year in the States for med school, while here in Canada it’s closer to $15,000. But it’s still an interesting idea.


 

Should med school be free in Canada?

  1. No, it is not a good idea. Whether or not Canadians want to admit it, there is a medical economy, but this economy is not an island to itself. When government price-fixes a sector of the economy it affects other sectors of the economy.

    What would happen if we made food “free”, or transit “free”, or housing “free”? Why not make everything “free”? The answer is, it would overload those markets.

    If we made medical education free, more people, who would have decided that being a doctor was not for them, would attempt to become doctors and overload the colleges and universities.

    You will be taking students from other educational areas and leaving them with a deficit. Are engineers, accountants, nurses, teachers, so unimportant that we want to push these people away from these choices and make them all doctors. Maybe we should make everyone in North America a doctor! I’m sure that would cure wait times.

    Prices are a form of regulation, so that the resources used will be paid for and used efficiently. If you subsidize the price of something so that its “sale price” falls, no one is able to make reasonable choices regarding the costs of anything, because those costs are hidden, resources get depleted.

    I wish the news media would stop saying that government funded programs are “free”. They are not free, they are spent via fiat, added to the deficit and future generations are taxed. We can not keep doing this forever.

  2. Medical education in Canada is already heavily subsidized. What the government should do is only subsidize medical school tuition for those who come from low-income families, or those who are dedicated to serving as family doctors.

    The problem, of course, is then that you will have people who don’t want to be family doctors going into practice as such, simply to save money.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but making medical school free isn’t the answer. That will just cause taxes to increase, without increasing the number of family doctors. After all, if medical school were free, there would be no guarantee that those students would go on to do a family medicine residency.

  3. Scott, did you read the part of the article where they suggest that – in exchange for making med school “free” – residents outside of primary care programs shouldn’t be paid? That is, general surgery residents working 50-60 hours per week with 1 in 4 call should work for free.

    @Sam: Medical school has limited enrolment based on fairly high admission standards. Spots are limited as is, and it’s certainly the case that far more apply than get in. You’re probably right that the number of applicants would go up, but the essential flaw in your argument is that here “supply” is entirely unresponsive to “demand”. Read that intro microecon text again!