Couldn't We Have 200 Medical Schools Instead?
MP: Post has just been updated to correct the previous charts, which incorrectly showed the number of applications, instead of the number of applicants. Mea maxima culpa - it was one of those late night 1 a.m. posts that involved multiple computer crashes, losing data, being groggy, etc.
Associated Press -- The United States last week became the world's first nation of 200 accredited law schools, as the American Bar Association gave provisional approval to two North Carolina institutions.
In other countries, it's much harder to become a lawyer. In the United States, the doors are open and getting wider. The 150,000 students enrolled in law schools last year were an all-time high.
MP: In 1963, there were only 135 law schools in the U.S. (data here), so the increase to 200 today represents almost a 50% increase over the last 45 years in the number of U.S. law schools.
Unfortunately, we've witnessed exactly the opposite trend in the number of medical schools. There are 129 medical schools in the U.S. (data here), which is less than the number of medical schools 100 years ago (166), even though the U.S. population has increased by 300%. Consider also that the number of medical students in the U.S. has remained constant at 67,000 for at least the period between 1994 and 2005, according to this report, and perhaps much longer.
UPDATED: The charts below tell an interesting story (data here):
The number of applicants to medical school keeps going up, by almost 22% between 2003 (34,786) and 2007 (42,315), despite the fact that the number of students admitted has gone up by only about 7% (from 16,538 to 17,759) over that period (see chart below).
Because of the 22% increase in applicants for only 7% more openings available in medical schools, the number of medical school applicants per available opening in medical schools increased from 2.1 in 2003 to 2.4 in 2007 (see chart below).
Because of the significant increase in applicants for a very small increase in available openings in medical school, the percent of medical school applicants accepted has decreased from 47.5% in 2003 to 42% in 2007, see chart below.
Bottom Line: One reason we might have a "health care crisis" and rising medical costs is that we turn away 58% of the applicants to medical schools. What we have is a medical cartel, which significantly restricts the supply of physicians, and thereby gives its members monopoly power to charge above-market prices for their services.
If we had 129 law schools (instead of 200) and 200 medical schools in the U.S. (instead of 129), it would probably go a long way to solving our "health care crisis." More MDs at much lower salaries along with fewer lawyers and lawsuits would be a good thing, no? Can't breaking up the medical cartel be part of the discussion for health care reform?