Join me in this SPECIAL EPISODE with anonymous guest “Doctor K” as they talk about the COVID-19 Pandemic Physician Protection Act (CPPPA) and healthcare worker’s student debt.
In summary, this legislation would address:
• Access to Personal Protective Equipment for ALL Healthcare Workers, to
slow the spread of COVID-19, and ensure patient and healthcare worker safety.
• Establishment of a COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for Physicians and ALL
Healthcare Workers. This would provide healthcare and disability coverage for acute and chronic illnesses resulting from primary or secondary COVID-19 exposure.
• Malpractice Protections for Physicians, which will include protections from any COVID-19 liability which may arise. The Good Samaritan standard should be applied to all COVID-19 related care.
• Mandate Full Payment for Patient Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Co-payments and co-insurance should be fully funded by Medicare and Medicaid, as well as all private insurers and third party payers.• Tax Credits for Physicians and all Healthcare Workers for expenditures related
to COVID-19, including licensure, credentialing, travel, protective equipment, lodging, and other related expenses.
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All opinions expressed by the guest in this episode are solely the guest’s opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Andrew Tisser DO, Talk2MeDoc LLC, or any affiliates thereof. The guest’s opinions are based upon information he considers reliable, but Andrew Tisser DO, Talk2MeDoc LLC, nor any affiliates thereof warrant its completeness or accuracy. The guest, Andrew Tisser DO, Talk2MeDoc LLC, or any affiliates thereof are not under any obligation to update or correct any information provided in this episode. The guest’s statements and opinions are subject to change without notice.
Andrew Tisser 0:08
What is the COVID-19 pandemic physician Protection Act? What is the truth about our health care workers saddled with unbelievable student loan debt at criminal interest rates? How can the public and our government support healthcare workers in our time of need? Learn the answers to these questions and many more on this special episode of the Talk2MeDoc podcast. [Intro]
Hey guys, it’s Andrew. Welcome to this special episode of the talk to me doc podcast. I hope everyone is staying safe out there. You may have seen a recent article featured in NBC That interviewed me about student loans and the COVID-19 pandemic physician Protection Act. I had the pleasure of working on this piece of proposed legislation among many other physicians, and my portion related to student loans.
Wow, not everyone believes in student loan forgiveness. This article was also shared by some congressional leaders, including Senator Bernie Sanders. I wanted to clear up a few things. First of all, while the CPPPA, is called the physician Protection Act, it applies to all healthcare workers, but what is his name such as it was developed by physicians. Secondly, while my focus was on student loans and forgiveness, there are many other aspects to the bill that were not discussed in this article.
Additionally, forgiveness was one option, others included tax credits, zero percent interest rates, the ability to deduct interest or the entire loan balance, and other suggestions. I put together this episode to include a few stories of physicians and other health care workers to help explore the bill, as well as some of the things that we as healthcare workers are currently dealing with. But first, a few comments on the bill itself. The rapid escalation of COVID-19 has resulted in unprecedented challenges for the healthcare system. This legislation seeks to ensure the protection of our healthcare workers who are sacrificing their personal safety each and every day.
The highlights of this document include access to personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers to slow the spread of the pandemic and ensure patient and health care worker safety, the establishment of the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for physicians and all healthcare workers. This would provide health care and disability coverage for acute and chronic illnesses resulting from primary or secondary COVID-19 exposure, malpractice protection for physicians which will include protections from any COVID-19 liability which may arise, the Good Samaritan standard should be applied to all COVID-19 related care.
It also includes provisions to help keep our practices solvent during this trying time, as well as tax credits for physicians and all healthcare workers for expenditures related to COVID-19 including licensure, credentialing, travel, protective equipment, lodging and other related expenses. We want to emphasize that physicians can’t be martyrs. We will take out the front lines, we need protections so that we can focus on the medicine. We need malpractice protections, our people won’t step up. We need our practices to stay solvent to be able to provide care and keep people out of the emergency department. And we need protections for our trainees and the COVID-19 fund to protect our families. My first story is an interview With Dr. Kay, Dr. Kay along with other stories I will share chose to remain anonymous, which speaks to the environment in which we are practicing right now. Please welcome her to the show and hear her story. Dr. Kay, welcome to the talk to me, Doc podcast.
“Doctor K” 4:19
Hi, thank you for having me.
Andrew Tisser 4:20
Absolutely. So, Dr. K has chosen to remain anonymous today. And but if you could just tell us your involvement a little bit with our recent petition known as the COVID-19 pandemic physician Protection Act,
“Doctor K” 4:36
yes, I helped write the student loan portion of the of the act with a group of fellow physicians. And, you know, kind of basically went through some of the history of student loans and the financial benefit of forgiving them for physicians and all frontline workers and we included some Portions of that in the bill.
Andrew Tisser 5:02
So what is that? What do you think some of the benefits are?
“Doctor K” 5:07
Well, you know, as we kind of know your story, I mean, physicians carry an incredible amount of student loan debt. And part of the reason is because of the very high interest rates and the very long schooling that we have and training and the amount of student debt is crippling, and I don’t think there’s any other profession, you know, that people hold them the United States that has such a high debt burden. and removing those loans would really allow physicians to focus on what they need to focus on and that is staying safe during the Coronavirus and treating patients and not worrying about what is waiting for them back home and what is waiting for their families back home if something were to happen to them with, you know, the Coronavirus. The other big thing in the news right now is economic stimulus. And I think that, you know, if the student loans were forgiven for all physicians and health care workers as well, the stimulus from that would be incredible.
Andrew Tisser 6:09
Yeah, I agree. I think I think we want to Dr. K and I want to make it clear that we support cancellation of student debt for all frontline health care workers and not just physicians. That’s just the terminology in the bill. But what do you say to people that come back and say, well, you’re a rich doctor, you shouldn’t have any problems paying off that debt and you took the loan out,
“Doctor K” 6:32
I would say, I wish I was a rich doctor, I am not a rich doctor. You know, the the thing that people don’t understand about physicians is that we’re out of the normal paying workforce for a very long portion of our lives, and we don’t really enter our real jobs, you know, until we’re in our 30s. And so all those years we we are not making any money. We don’t really start making any money until we’re in our 30s I live very modestly. I you know, I don’t have a fancy car, I don’t have a fancy house.
I’m in a ton of debt between my mortgage and my student loans. I’m in over a million dollars in debt. You know, I, I am not rich and most of the physicians I know are not rich, we are normal middle class citizens. I mean, nobody can be rich, if they’re carrying a $500,000 ball and chain, you know, loan with them. I mean, you cannot be rich until, you know, until you’re out of debt. And most of us are not out of debt until we’re, you know, almost in our 50s.
Andrew Tisser 7:39
So, so how do we get here? How do we get to half a million dollars a debt?
“Doctor K” 7:44
Well, you know, the, the biggest thing is the interest rates. I mean, my interest, my interest rates currently are over 6% they have been higher I was able to consolidate at one point when you have these, you know, incredibly high tuition rates for schools, both college and for medical school. And you have a and you have long training periods. I mean, my residency was five years. And I did two fellowships as well. So basically, for seven years, I was in training, that interest just kills you. I mean, I don’t even know what my exact principal was, but my total bill now is over $450,000. I think it’s like almost $460,000. And that, you know, a huge chunk of that is just interest.
Andrew Tisser 8:29
Yeah, I mean, it’s absurd. So you go to medical school, I know my final year of schooling, which was six years ago now or so was $56,000 for tuition alone, plus living expenses, which was on Long Island, so you know, not that that’s money doesn’t go a very long way. And we were sitting at you know, 7.8% interest rate. So after I did a three year residency, and I ended up with my balance, and my wife did five years of training and ended up with almost $150,000 more and we graduated from the same school at the same time.
“Doctor K” 9:06
Yeah, I believe it. I mean, most of that is interest. And, you know, it’s really hard to make any kind of payments during residency, you know, because we’re not paid very much. I mean, I did not make that, you know, I barely made anything, you know, during my residency. And, you know, interest is a killer. The, the other thing that, you know, is terrible about the interest rates that they said, they don’t really change. I mean, the current interest rates right now are about two to 3%. You know, if you wanted to refinance your home or buy a car or anything, hat, you know, our interest rates are still above six and 7%.
I mean, they are subprime rates and they don’t change and there’s really nothing that you can do about it unless you refinance privately. And a lot of physicians to choose to do that. Because I mean, the the interest rates are just gouging physician. I mean, they’re just crazy interest rates. If you refinance private though, you know a lot of the company Uh, you know, kind of lock you into a mortgage type loan where you can’t refinance again, because they, they basically refinance it as a personal loan, it doesn’t even count as a student loan anymore.
They aren’t forgiven when you die, which is terrible. I mean, leaving your family with, you know, greater than $500,000 in debt when you are when you’re when you passed. I mean, that’s just crazy. So you’re, you’re just caught. I mean, either you can stay with your federal loans and your crazy interest rates or you can refinance and then get caught and essentially be taking out a second mortgage on your life.
Andrew Tisser 10:37
Yeah, it’s, it’s absurd. how we got here, and it’s not just us. I mean, you see recent nursing graduates that graduate with $100,000 of debt to look at a scale right and, and or, you know, you look at 60 to $100,000 a debt for brand new nurse. I mean, how are they gonna pay that off?
“Doctor K” 10:56
Yeah, it’s really difficult. They’re, they’re having programs with a lot of hospitals for nurses that you, you know, forgive their debt or pay down their debt, you know, if they work a certain amount of years, and I think that those programs are fantastic. I really think that, you know, that we need to emphasize, you know, student loan forgiveness is for all healthcare workers and frontline workers as well.
We haven’t to hold a very large number attached to our student loan, you know, to all our student loans, but I agree that all student loans need to be forgiven. And some of those repayment programs that, you know, nurses have, I think that they’re amazing. I mean, I wish that some of the hospitals we work for would, you know, provide that for us, but I don’t know of any position that has that deal.
Andrew Tisser 11:41
Now, a lot of them what they do offer is a student like a student loans bonus, but most of the time, that’s just paid out as salary and taxed as such. So it’s really not a student loan bonus. It’s just salary.
Andrew Tisser 12:01
in regards to the CPPPA, as we’re calling it, are there any other portions of the bill that you’d like to talk about? I know we’re the two of us are very focused on student loans. But this is a much larger piece of legislation than just, you know, loans.
“Doctor K” 12:17
Right. I think that one of the most important portions of the bill is the malpractice portion. I think that you know, Coronavirus, has been, you know, just a very confusing time for everyone. You know, the recommendations set by the CDC and the government, as well as healthcare workers changes all the time. It’s very wrong and difficult to hold any kind of health care worker liable, you know, for any loss, you know, or any malpractice in this time, but there have not been across the board alleviation of malpractice rules for anyone. So I think that malpractice reform and basically Good Samaritan laws across the board to prevent any frivolous lawsuits regarding Coronavirus is a must.
I think that there have been a lot of recruiting companies, especially in New York, it’s been in the paper that have been making physicians sign waivers saying that they are completely responsible for every outcome of the patient and basically, you know, having to put themselves out there, you know, as far as liability, and a lot of their malpractice carriers don’t necessarily cover, you know, with the, you know, their services because they’re out of the scope of practice. And I just think that that is one of the most important things. There also is a precedent with that, you know, a couple of states have already said that there will be no malpractice related lawsuits, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Illinois, and it would be fantastic if this was federally mandated as well.
Andrew Tisser 13:53
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with all that, I think. And I think the other issue, you know, not to beat a dead horse. In regards to student loans, but I think the the major underlying issue is what we need is medical school tuition reform. And we need interest rates as close to zero as possible.
Because, unfortunately, if we continue down this path, we’re going to lose a lot of our early career doctors to burnout and suicide, which is not unprecedented. And we are going to start seeing only the privilege being able to attend medical school because when you have to pay, I mean, I’ve seen some residents talking about six or $700,000 and not being done with training. If you go out and make a primary care salary, it is impossible for you to pay those back.
“Doctor K” 14:41
Yeah, I think that there was a study that came out last year that showed that by the year 2032, there’s going to be 122,000 physicians. That’s the shortage is going to be a shortage of 122,000 positions that this is before Coronavirus. This is a study from last year. So I can’t imagine it getting any better than that, you know, after this pandemic, which was, you know, I mean, physicians and all health care workers face major challenges. And, you know, I don’t I don’t think that being a physician has become an attractive job, you know, anymore.
And you know, we saw this before Coronavirus. I mean, you have to get the best of the best, you know, to have good healthcare in your country. And that’s the goal for everyone. I mean, it should be the goal of everyone in the country to make sure that when you go to a hospital, you get the best care and you get the best and the brightest taking care of you.
Andrew Tisser 15:35
Yeah, I agree. And a lot of times, too, I know, when we were applying to medical school, they would give us the average indebtedness of other graduating class. But what they didn’t tell you is that half the students don’t take out any loans. So when they give you a $200,000 average indebtedness, taking no account 50% with a zero balance, you end up with people that take out loans end up with 400 K and I think that’s a real deceptive little little trick that the medical schools do to people that are 20 to 23 years old and don’t know any better.
“Doctor K” 16:07
Correct. And they also give you the the average loans that you graduate with, but they don’t tell you that after residency, those loans are pretty much double, you know, after interest. So you get the very early principle some which already is pretty high. I mean, I went to state schools and still my, you know, my loans were outrageous. I didn’t, you know, go to any fancy private school and still the numbers were outrageous.
Andrew Tisser 16:32
It’s criminal, in my opinion. So Dr. K what do you say to the people that come back and say, Well, I paid mine off, so should you or what do I get?
“Doctor K” 16:45
I mean, I understand why they are saying what they are saying I understand it might be painful to have paid thousands of dollars that potentially could be forgiven for other things. No positions. But, you know, I don’t think that it is right to begrudge anyone for getting anything better than you received. I mean, I just, I don’t live my life that way. And I don’t think a lot of people live their life that way. I, you know, I want the best for everyone around me and going forward, I want to make things better. And I understand why they’re saying it. I understand that they feel left out and that they’re not getting anything out of the deal. But you know, I don’t think it’s right.
Andrew Tisser 17:33
Yeah, I don’t understand it personally. I mean, I have private loans. If they came back and told me that only federal loans would be forgiven, I’d be over the moon. If they came back and told me that only read current residents would get their loans forgiven. I’d be so happy for them. In no way. Would I begrudge them something that I didn’t get? I just, it’s like into wouldn’t you want better for your children? Right?
“Doctor K” 17:58
Yeah. With the current climate. I’ve said this multiple times, I would never allow my children to become physicians. It’s just, it’s just too much. I mean, something has to give. I mean, it’s a hard job day to day, day to day, you know, day to day you’re making life this life and death decisions, and it’s already a taxing job. It’s an emotional job. I mean, the amount of testing that we went through just to get our licenses, I mean, you know, it’s crazy, but to add expense onto that, you know, I would never allow my kids to do that unless there was a big change with the whole system.
Andrew Tisser 18:32
I’m with you completely. I, you know, I my wife and I are both first generation physicians. We don’t come from a family of doctors that helped us along the way and and in no way if things don’t change, could I recommend this career to my children?
“Doctor K” 18:47
I agree. I mean, residency in itself was really tough, you know, but knowing that I mean, residency spots, that’s, you know, that’s another thing that is addressed in the bill. You There’s a shortage of residency spots which are funded by the government. And, you know, there are a lot of people graduating from medical school that don’t even have residency spots. So that in itself doesn’t, you know, that it’s just unforgivable to allow people to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for an education and then not have a spot to go to, you know, get your practical skills in.
So that, you know that that is another thing that we addressed in the bill that needs to be addressed on a national scale since then, you know, the government is the one that’s funding these spots. The training physicians, you know, the residents, they’re also not making anywhere near some of the training physicians that, you know, in other health care specialties, we nurse practitioners and PA students make a lot more than residents do. And, you know, the prices are set by the government and I think some of them are regional, but, you know, that needs to be addressed as well.
Student Loans just add to that as well. I mean, as a as a resident, you’re making major Maybe $100 a day, you know, a little bit less than that. And you’re getting charged the average student loans, you know, student loan amount for our graduating medical student is just under $300,000. And that accumulates about $45 of interest a day. So, you know, I don’t know anyone else who’s in that boat where they’re accumulating $45 a day in interest, they’re only getting paid $100 a day. I mean, the math is just terrible. And, you know, it’s, it’s just terrible. And, you know, it’s not something that you know, when you’re in your early 20s, and you want to be a physician,
Andrew Tisser 20:35
I have no one tells you these things. I mean, that there’s no way someone that is 22 years old, who’s bright, has great grades and wants to make a difference in this world will truly grasp the concepts of compounding interest and what 400 k plus in debt will do to the rest of your life.
I don’t think you know, I don’t think that’s it. Just the same as someone who takes out a bachelor’s degree in a spa in something that won’t get them a job and ends up with $100,000 in debt I don’t think they can comprehend that that mistake either. Right. But yeah, I mean to repeat those numbers $100 A day after tax take home pay 45 or so dollars a day in interest not even that’s just interest so that’s how we got there. It’s terrible. It’s it’s criminal.
“Doctor K” 21:33
doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know any you know, I don’t I don’t know anyone else in that boat except for doctors. Having said that, I love being a doctor. I love taking care of patients. I love my job. You know, I I love I find it very fulfilling. I love helping people. I love my job. But it’s it’s tough, man. It’s just tough.
Andrew Tisser 21:56
When you see all these people on the news stories that Doctors are getting fired for speaking out against poor conditions and lack of PPE But think of the amount of doctors that aren’t speaking out because they can’t afford to get fired because they have three kids half a million dollars in debt and a mortgage.
“Doctor K” 22:13
Right. Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean, it’s a it’s a huge issue with independence and you know, it is the ball and chain that is not allowing doctors to practice medicine, how they would like to practice medicine.
Andrew Tisser 22:29
Agreed. All right, Dr. K, I think we’re running out of time here. But is there anything else you’d like to touch on?
“Doctor K” 22:41
I don’t really think I have anything specific. there’s a there’s a ton of great stuff in the act. You know, I think that you have the link that you can share with everyone so they can actually peruse the document and see you know, there there are lots of things that we haven’t discussed that are in there such as tax credit. You know, availability to all health care workers and, you know, laws to mandate that, as well as a COVID-19 fund for health care workers.
Andrew Tisser 23:08
Yeah. For the listeners I the recent NBC article linked to the petition and the act. And I will leave a direct link in the show notes for this episode for both the petition and the act so that you can read it on your own. But, Dr. K, thanks again for coming on the show and sharing your perspective with the audience.
“Doctor K” 23:28
so much for having me. Thank you so much. And thank you for all that you do as a frontline worker.
Andrew Tisser 23:33
Oh, absolutely. All right. Take care now.
“Doctor K” 23:36
Thanks. You too, right.
Andrew Tisser 23:38
Wow, what a great episode with Dr. K. She really shares a lot of her personal stories and some of the issues we are dealing with on the forefront of both the bill and the student loan crisis in this country.
But it is not just physicians who are dealing with this absurd amount of educational debt under Who wants to remain anonymous? Send me a message stating my employer just caught all registry shifts and I have a ton of debt since I just graduated. And an NP can’t even find work as a nurse.
I filed for unemployment today. Never in my life did I think I’d be in this position as a trained er ICU and cath lab nurse and now nurse practitioner. I have debt from nursing school and now nurse practitioner school about $240,000 I can’t get a job even in a pandemic. I’m so heartbroken. Why did I even do this? for people to treat you horribly and administrators to throw you away like garbage? I should have picked a different profession.
My daughters wanted to be physician assistants and I said absolutely not. I cannot recommend this career. Another nurse shared I have $140,000 in debt another stated 61,000 for 10 years I carried a Sallie Mae loan with a 9.5% interest rate, another 169,000 in student debt at 7.5% interest. These are nurses who went to school to help people.
They are shackled with unbelievable amounts of debt hit usury type interest rates. Some other physicians wanted to share their stories, one, approximately six months out of training $610,000 with an average interest rate of 7% another $430,000 6.8% to fix every major financial and job decision that she makes a couple with a total of $580,000 nine years into repayment. Concerns about savings for kids school, when can they retire stress and emotional burdens another five hundred thousand five years in 7% interest rate, stress family planning and deciding when to buy a home or the effects it has on her.
Another stated that impacts every facet of her life from pushing off family planning to renting a small home to turning down amazing jobs because they can’t accommodate loan repayment. Another physician couple with over 700,000 between them state that the loans play a heavy emotional burden. Her husband chose his job based on loan repayment and forgiveness postponing what he actually wants to do. A third year urology resident currently sits at $510,000 expected to be ballooned up to $700,000 by the time he finished his residency.
Stories like this are not meant to complain. nor are they unusual or a typical, largely unregulated medical school and other professional school educational costs are astounding as well as the criminal Interest rates that are placed upon these people. Unfortunately, the longer a position remains in training directly affects how large the end balance becomes due to obscene interest rates. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Talk2MeDoc podcast. Please support the COVID-19 pandemic physician Protection Act by writing to your congressional leaders.
Links to the petition. And further information about the proposed legislation will be in the show notes. Thank you to all my new and returning listeners. I really appreciate you. We’ll get back to communication and the healthcare worker experience shortly. In the meantime, if you go Leave me a honest review on Apple podcasts, I would really appreciate it as it really helps to get the show out there. But anytime you need me directly, please feel free to email me at [email protected] Stay safe out there everybody, keep talking, and we’ll talk soon.
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