‘Pay physicians a straight salary,’ plus more top articles about physician compensation

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published September 13, 2018

Key Takeaways

Two of the most beautiful words in the English language are "check enclosed," according to 20th century wit Dorothy Parker. With that sentiment in mind, here's a roundup of some of the most popular articles we published in the past year on physician compensation.


Most physicians would choose salary over fee-for-service

The majority of physicians (69%) would prefer to be paid a straight salary, according to the results of a national survey. Paying physicians a straight salary, rather than paying them through fee-for-service, would not only reduce overall health-care spending, but also lessen physicians' stress and frustration. One expert concluded: "The high levels of job dissatisfaction reported by many physicians may result, in part, from the need to navigate the complexities of the fee-for-service arrangements." Check out the arguments for and against straight salary vs fee-for-service.

Five-year increase in PCPs' compensation was double that of specialists

Compensation for primary care physicians (PCPs) rose by more than 10% during the past 5 years, which was nearly double the increase of specialty physicians' compensation for the same period, according to a recent report. It's an indication that the PCP shortage is worsening, and the rise in their compensation doesn't appear to be due to an increase in productivity. "When broken down by primary care focus, family medicine physicians saw a 12% rise in total compensation over the past 5 years, while their median number of work relative value units, or work RVUs, remained flat, increasing by less than 1%," according to the report. See what else this report found.

How about a free ride through medical school?

Full-tuition scholarships are coming to all current and future students at NYU School of Medicine, New York City, NY, administrators announced recently. "This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians," said dean Robert I. Grossman, MD, at a recent white coat ceremony. The scholarships were made possible by more than 2,500 supporters of the medical school. Read about what led the school to this remarkable decision.

New female physicians are paid less, and it's only getting worse

The average starting salary of newly trained female physicians was $26,367 less than their male counterparts in 2016, according to a workforce report. Compare that to 2005, when the gender pay gap was "only" about $10,000. In other words, the difference in pay actually increased about $16,000 in a decade. "As has been observed in the general labor workforce, even as women have become a greater proportion of physicians in the workforce, the gender disparity in income has persisted and is growing," researchers concluded. This held true in most, but not all, specialties. Click here to find out which specialties had the largest, and which had the least, gender pay gaps.

Physicians support a single-payer system, despite reduced quality of care

More physicians support a single-payer health care system than oppose it, according to an MDLinx survey. However, the majority of physicians also anticipate that a single-payer system would lower physician income and decrease quality of care. This chart from the survey shows that nearly half of physicians think a single-payer plan would lower quality of care, while more than one third think it would increase quality of care. "As a CPA and an MD, I believe strongly in a single-payer system that removes the insurance industry from the medical delivery system," wrote one respondent. "We must restore the sacred relationship between patient and physician, and only when we move toward a single-payer system can we ever restore it." Read about the finer points in favor of, and against, the single-payer argument here.

Pay is higher in states with fewer doctors—with some exceptions

Physicians tend to have the highest pay in states with the fewest physicians. On the other hand, physicians generally earn less in states with a greater number of competing physicians, according to an MDLinx analysis. A few states were the exceptions to this rule: New Hampshire is one of the top 10 states in physician population, but it also ranks #1 in physician compensation. On the other end of the spectrum, Arkansas has both low physician density and low physician income. Said one MD/MBA: "While there will always be pay disparities, all physicians are well paid, and the happiest physicians I know are not the best paid." But who are some of the best paid? Find out in our analysis.

Physician compensation had negligible growth in 2017

For the first time in more than a decade, physician compensation increased less than 2%—rising only 0.89% in 2017, according to a research report from the American Medical Group Association (AMGA). Meanwhile, overall physician productivity dropped by a weighted average of 1.63% in 2017. The AMGA report couldn't pinpoint a definitive reason for the decline in productivity. "Medical groups today consistently report several factors that have an impact on their clinical output," said the president of AMGA Consulting, noting that possible factors included the burden of electronic health records (EHRs), patient complexity, and administrative and compliance requirements. Additionally, the report found that changes in productivity and compensation varied significantly by specialty. Take a look at some of the differences here.

Stay tuned to MDLinx for more about money matters and physician compensation.

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter