I recently read one of those viral letters posted on social media that began with the line, “Somebody asked: You’re a doctor? How much do you make?”
The author cleverly used another definition of “make” in the answer, citing the difference doctors “make” and the sacrifices their families routinely to “make” as part of their demanding profession.
Some of the answers were thought provoking:
· “I can make holding your hand seem like the most important thing in the world when you’re scared.”
· “I can make your child breathe when they stop.”
· “I can make myself get up at 4 a.m. to make sure your mother has the medicine she needs to live.”
· “I make my family wait for dinner until I know your family member is taken care of.”
Comments on the letter were mainly positive. Some readers rightly extended those answers to nurses and other healthcare professionals who spend their lives handling our emergencies. Still, in an era when government rather than the free market is controlling much of our healthcare costs, doctors are sizable targets. Many believe they simply “make” too much money and that doctor salaries are part of the overall healthcare cost crisis.
“We pay our doctors way too much,” wrote economics writer Matthew Yglesias in Slate magazine, adding that “there’s no rational basis for leaving their interests unscathed when tackling unduly expensive medicine.”
To justify the claim he cited the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that reported the United States “has the highest-paid general practitioners in the world” and that our medical specialists “make more than specialists in every other country except the Netherlands.”
As with most goods and services, you get what you pay for. Rather than being envious of a doctor’s salary, or clumsily tinkering with the complex market that decides it, perhaps we should consider the value of their services.
Like many, I’ve had experience with a major medical issue. My wife recently developed a life-threatening condition and spent the last six-weeks of her pregnancy in the hospital.
The care was outstanding. The doctor visited my wife late at night only to show up again early the next morning, ensuring everything was correct. He left nothing to chance or to someone else to handle. He saw her on his days off and even returned from a serious out-of-town family emergency to perform my wife’s surgery during the time it was best for her condition. He was meticulous, cautious and thorough, and in the end he saved the lives of my wife and son.
The cost was enormous; two-thirds a year’s total earnings. Thankfully my insurance paid the lion’s share but our savings took a deep hit. I’m not sure what portion of the total bill went into the doctor’s pocket, but I hope it was a bundle. He earned it.
Most doctors I know pour an enormous amount of time, effort and money into their education, beginning when they’re only teenagers. Once they become doctors their level of effort – and expenses due to malpractice insurance and regulatory costs – seems to only increase. Simply put, doctors have worked harder and sacrificed more over a longer period of time than most people (including me). It stands to reason they should earn more.
That seems lost on the central planners at the Health and Human Services Department. They’re controlling much of the market already through Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare’s growing regulations. Control over access may soon follow, and if the trend continues, they’ll eventually decide how much doctors can earn. That’s how it’s done in the United Kingdom, often cited as an example of a healthcare utopia.
Let’s hope the tide turns. Meanwhile, the author of that viral letter ended his answers by reminding us that most doctors enter their profession for more than just monetary reward. “How much do I make?” he asked. “All I know is, I make a difference.”
For my family, our doctor made all the difference. I only hope that despite the government’s continued meddling in his profession that future doctors can continue making that kind of a difference for other families, and collect every penny they’ve earned along the way.