Unique Financial Challenges That Physicians Face
By: Varun Verma, MD
Published: Dec 11, 2023
📂 Physician Perspectives
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Unique Financial Challenges That Physicians Face
Physicians, like professionals in any other field, face a range of financial challenges. However, there are several unique financial challenges that are particularly relevant to physicians:
High Educational Debt: Physicians typically undergo extensive education and training, which can result in significant student loan debt. The cost of medical school and the length of time it takes to complete medical training can lead to substantial financial obligations. Recent figures show the average debt for those graduating medical school is above $200,000. We all have contacts from our personal networks that went to private undergraduate or private medical schools or Caribbean medical schools and are finishing with $400-500,000 of debt. This is like starting your working career with a mortgage.
Long Training Period: Medical training, including undergraduate education, medical school, residency, and fellowship, extends for many years. This prolonged training period delays earning a full physician's income and may contribute to financial stress. Many of us have friends that went into finance or other fields and essentially started earning a decent paycheck at age 21 after finishing college. Even other fields like law don’t have an extended training period like residency or fellowship and they can start earning a living wage much sooner than physicians.
High Malpractice Insurance Costs: Medical malpractice insurance can be a significant financial burden for physicians, especially those in high-risk specialties. Premiums can vary widely based on location, specialty, and past claims. Surgical fields tend to have the highest malpractice costs, and another consideration physicians need to stress about is who will pay the ‘tail’ coverage when they leave a practice.
Overhead Costs: Physicians who own or operate their medical practices are responsible for the overhead costs, such as rent (or mortgage), utilities, staff salaries (front desk, medical assistants, associates), and equipment (which can be quite expensive depending on your specialty). Managing these expenses can be challenging, especially for those in private practice.
Regulatory Compliance: Physicians must navigate complex healthcare regulations, billing codes, and insurance requirements. Just to get started physicians need to pay for and maintain a medical license in each state they practice and a DEA. Compliance with these regulations can be time-consuming and may require additional administrative staff, increasing overhead costs.
Uncertain Reimbursement: The reimbursement landscape in healthcare is constantly changing, and physicians may face uncertainty regarding how much they will be paid for their services. This can be particularly problematic for those who rely heavily on fee-for-service models. For example - many physician groups have decried the fact that the 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule rule includes a 3.34% decrease to the fee schedule's conversion factor, which is used to calculate Medicare payouts to docs.
Student Loan Forgiveness Eligibility: Some physicians may be eligible for certain student loan forgiveness programs, but navigating the eligibility criteria and requirements can be complex.
Disability and Life Insurance: Physicians may require substantial disability and life insurance coverage due to their high income potential and the potential impact of a disability on their ability to practice medicine.
To address these unique financial challenges, many physicians seek advice from financial planners or advisors who specialize in healthcare and medical professionals. Developing a sound financial plan that considers these challenges is essential for physicians to achieve their long-term financial goals and maintain financial stability throughout their careers. Andwise can help - please book a complementary session with Tanya Frias CFP https://www.joinandwise.com/blog/complimentary-financial-education-consultation-for-medical-professionals
Varun Verma, MD ⇨
Dr. Varun Verma, a seasoned internal medicine physician, embodies a passion for public health advocacy and a deep-seated knowledge of the trials encountered by medical professionals. His expansive experience spans 14 renowned hospitals, including UCSF, the Brigham, Jefferson, and Bellevue. Alongside his wife, a dermatologist, Varun champions the physician-patient relationship and fosters community and solidarity among physicians.
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