Are Doctors Really as Greedy as People Think They Are?
If you take the time to talk with a variety of people, you’ll quickly find out that many think doctors are greedy.
They cite the rising cost of medical care, the high incomes of doctors, and the stories about those who have been caught dealing illegal drugs as reasons for their attitudes.
Many also feel that doctors don’t spend enough time with them and often let their physicians assistants and nurses do their jobs for them while still collecting hefty sums of money for their services.
While some of these feelings are valid, before making the assumption that all doctors spend too much time worrying about money and not enough taking care of patients, there are a few things you need to know.
I have worked for doctors in two different medical schools and understand better than most individuals what really goes on behind the scenes.
The Financial Price of Becoming a Doctor
While it is true that doctors make higher incomes than many people, the truth is that they make a lot of personal and financial sacrifices in order to enter their profession.
I have worked in two medical schools and can tell you from personal experience that medical students pay huge sums of money per year (about $34,592 for in-state students and $58,668 for out of state students for tuition and insurance at public medical schools and $50,000 for private schools) according to a post by Kaplan Test Prep.
This does not count the cost of food, housing, transportation and other living expenses, which can easily increase those costs by thousands of dollars.
This only accounts for the basic education. If a student wants to pursue an internship or board certification, he’ll pay more.
Moneywatch stated recently that the average fresh out of school physician faces $166,750 in student loan debt.
This means that although he may be earning a decent income, a good portion of it will go towards paying off his loans!
Furthermore, if he decides to set up a private practice, he’ll quickly discover that he has all of the costs of any startup business. He’ll have to pay for
- office space,
- malpractice Insurance,
- furniture and
- utility bills,
all of which will take a significant bite out of his wallet.
It will cost less if he joins an existing practice, but will still cost!
The Physical Cost
Medical students quickly learn that they need a great deal of stamina and energy in order to work in their chosen field.
While in school, they barely have time to eat, let alone be able to relax or enjoy some social life.
They go for years working on grueling schedules, and this lifestyle does not change once they get out of school.
Many doctors work more than upwards of 50 hours per week, and some, such as surgeons, do work that is extremely intense and therefore stressful.
Most doctors make six figure incomes, but it takes them 10 years longer than the average college graduate before they start earning because of the amount of preparation and schooling they must endure before being able to start living normally.
However, even with that, some doctors make much more than others.
- Internists earn approximately $185,000 per year,
- Neurologists earn $216,000 and
- Orthopedic Surgeons earn about $405,000.
However, internists see almost 75% more patients daily than do many specialists, so the paperwork they must deal with can take up almost a fourth of each day.
These are big figures, but remember that many doctors work such long hours that enjoying any of the money they receive isn’t always easy.
Why People Become Doctors
Given the years of sacrifice, long hours, stress, high expenses and incomes that are badly dented due to student loans and the costs of practicing medicine, one wonders why anybody would want to become a doctor.
Some doctors find themselves wondering the same thing!
However, what “gets” them isn’t the things just mentioned, but rather the hassle of dealing with paperwork and the constant threat of being sued.
More than one doctor has told me that trying to comply with government guidelines is both complicated and frustrating. Some have even dropped seeing Medicare patients as a result.
Just about all of them will tell you they become doctors because they wanted to practice medicine so that they could help people. Only a few will cite money as their reasons for going to medical school.
However, there are those who give into the financial pressures. These would be the doctors who
- take kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies,
- start selling health care products out of their offices,
- open their own rehab facilities and
- sometimes become involved in the illicit sale of prescription medications.
What Happens That Causes This?
It is common knowledge that many doctors are poor money managers. This is likely because they are so busy, that they just don’t have time to manage their finances appropriately.
So, when they start losing instead of gaining, some slip into the abyss of unethical or illegal behavior.
You read about them all the time in the paper and wonder why people who make so much money would threaten their careers by doing such things.
Well, if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve written here, the answer is pretty clear.
While it appears that they are making a lot of money, they also have huge expenses.
Furthermore, many don’t know anything about financial management, so it’s very easy for them to lose fortunes on bad land deals or poor stock choices.
On the other hand, some just tire of the struggle and decide to do whatever they can to increase their bottom line.
Fortunately, the number of doctors who do these things is minimal. Yes, they become greedy, and sometimes patients suffer as a result.
However, the great majority of doctors are good people who work hard.
People should trust them unless they see signs of problems.
There are obvious clues you should pay attention to that will tell you whether your doctor is functioning normally or is showing signs of greed that can affect your wallet. Here are some of them.
Requiring Too Many Office Visits
You should not have to see your doctor every time you need a referral or a prescription, especially once your doctor knows your situation well
Doctors can boost their incomes artificially and significantly simply by requiring you to physically show up in order to get these things.
You also should not have to visit a doctor before, during and after every procedure. For example, one pain specialist I know requires people to come in for an office visit before he gives you a steroid shot and then again about a month afterwards. AT $300 per visit, this requirement makes him triple the money, but he personally only sees you for the procedure. His PA meets with you the other two times, yet he charges specialist rates for all three visits!
Doctors who keep finding excuses for you to consistently return are working in their best financial interests, not in yours!
Recommending Their Own Facilities
In recent years many doctors have started investing in their own surgery and physical therapy centers.
The problem with this is that it presents a conflict of interest, because if they refer patients to these facilities, especially without disclosing that they own them, patients may not be receiving the best level of care when the go to them.
If your doctor starts selling vitamins or health aids out of his office, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. This is a sure sign that your physician is unethical and may be doing other things to “up” his income by doing other similar types of things.
There are many health aids and vitamins that you can buy much less expensively than what a doctor will charge for them, so don’t buy from him.
Pushing Expensive Medications
There are many products on the market that can be used to treat health problems. A caring doctor will always prescribe medications that will do the best job at the lowest cost to you.
If your doctor is not doing this, it is likely because he is getting kickbacks from drug companies for pushing their products.
I once was given a scrip for a medication that would have cost more than $200 only to learn that I could have bought the same product across the counter for $6.
You should always ask if there is a less costly alternative, and you should always carry a copy of your health insurers formulary with you to see if they cover a medication and what the cost might be.
An ethical doctor will always be willing to work with you on this issue. If he’s not, find another doctor!
While there clearly are doctors who do these types of things, they do not represent the majority of those who work hard to help patients every day.
We should all remember the sacrifices doctors have made to get where they are in life, and that they came into the field of medicine with good intentions.
More importantly, we should bear in mind that they are the people who care for us and will be there for us when emergencies arise.
If we keep disrespecting and suspecting them, we’ll lose them. In fact, a report by the American Association of Medical Colleges has reported that by the year 2030, we’ll have a doctor shortage totaling 100,000 people.
This has already started to happen, and we cannot afford to let it continue. Our health and our safety depend on all of us showing respect and appreciation for them and what they do.
Nonetheless, you owe it to yourself to be vigilant. You now know that there are doctors who are greedy, but you also know that they are far and few between.
It is up to you to decide who you want caring for you, and now you have the tools that will help you to choose a physician who puts your needs before his own.
Do you think your own doctor is greedy?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle