Obama administration officials, alarmed at doctor shortages, are looking for ways to increase the supply of physicians to meet the needs of an aging population and millions of uninsured people who would gain coverage under legislation championed by the president.
The officials said they were particularly concerned about shortages of primary care providers who are the main source of health care for most Americans.
One often hears how the U.S. is not graduating enough doctors, and that those who do become physicians feel obliged to go into specialties to pay off their massive student loan debt. I have yet to see in any of these articles one simple reform proposed: abolish the requirement of an undergraduate degree before attending medical school, and turn medical school into a five or six-year post-high school program instead. This would eliminate two or three years of debt, and, perhaps even more important, the opportunity costs of two or three years of college. Right now, an aspiring physician must go to college for four years (and take many classes that have nothing to do with his future career), then medical school for four years, and then typically do a poorly paid internship and then residency for another five years. By the time this aspiring physician goes into practice, he will be at least thirty-one years old, and have eight years of student loan debt.
Surely, one should not be precluded from going to medical school if one has spent four years majoring in political science, or art history, or biology, and taken all the courses currently used to weed out pre-meds. But I don't see any good reason why it should be a requirement, either (and indeed, there are a few six-year medical school programs out there already, and I doubt they produce worse physicians).