Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New study identifies large gaps in lifetime earnings of specialist and primary-care physicians

Date:
September 28, 2012
Source:
University of California - Davis Health System
Summary:
A national study has found that earnings over the course of the careers of primary-care physicians averaged as much as $2.8 million less than the earnings of their specialist colleagues, potentially making primary care a less attractive choice for medical school graduates and exacerbating the already significant shortage of medical generalists.

A national study has found that earnings over the course of the careers of primary-care physicians averaged as much as $2.8 million less than the earnings of their specialist colleagues, potentially making primary care a less attractive choice for medical school graduates and exacerbating the already significant shortage of medical generalists.

The results, published online in the journal Medical Care, lead the study's authors to recommend reducing disparities in physician pay to ensure adequate access to primary care, which has been shown to improve health and reduce health-care costs.

"The need for primary-care providers is greater than ever before and expected to grow as millions more Americans become insured under the Affordable Care Act," said J. Paul Leigh, lead author of the study, professor of public health sciences and researcher with the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. "Without a better payment structure, there will be extraordinary demands on an already scarce resource."

According to projections by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation is likely to face a shortage of more than 65,000 primary-care physicians by 2025.

For the nationwide study, a follow-up to 2010 research by Leigh and his colleagues on differences in annual wages by specialty, the investigators compared lifetime earnings to demonstrate how annual wage differences accumulate over physicians' careers. The earnings data came from the 2004-2005 Community Tracking Study, a periodic evaluation of physician demographic, geographic and market trends.

To ensure valid comparisons, the data were adjusted to account for factors that affect earnings, including age, sex, race, board certification, graduation from a foreign medical school, rural residence, employment by an academic medical school and residency program length.

Incomes were then evaluated for more than 6,000 doctors practicing in 41 specialties. When merged into four broad career categories, lifetime earnings in surgery, internal medicine and pediatric subspecialties, and all other medical specialties averaged from $761,402 to $1,587,722 higher than in primary care:

  • Surgery: $4,588,249
  • Internal medicine subspecialties and pediatric subspecialties: $4,100,183
  • All other medical specialties: $3,761,930
  • Primary care (geriatrics, family practice, general practice, general internal medicine and general pediatrics): $3,000,527

The earnings differences were more dramatic when compared as 41 separate specialties. Medical oncologists, for instance, earn up to $7,127,543 during a 35-year career, while family medicine practitioners earn as low as $2,838,637.

Leigh surmised that one reason for the earnings differences is the tendency for Medicare administrators to utilize recommendations from an American Medical Association committee on physician pay that price specialist procedures far higher than primary-care office visits. Private insurance companies, in turn, tend to adopt Medicare pay rates.

The authors noted that efforts are under way to resolve physician pay differences. For example, the Affordable Care Act requires states to pay primary-care physicians no less than 100 percent of Medicare payment rates for primary-care services provided to Medicaid patients. The study's senior author, Richard Kravitz, a UC Davis professor of internal medicine, also serves on an independent commission to assess physician pay.

Kravitz and Leigh suggest that legislators, health-insurance administrators, medical-group directors, health-care plan managers and executives, and health policymakers take action to redesign the payment structure for medical care.

"These huge lifetime pay disparities have to be discouraging for medical students considering primary care as a career," said Kravitz. "If we truly value primary care, we need payment schemes that don't send the opposite message."

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health grants (OH008248-01 and U54OH007550) provided partial support for the study. In addition to Leigh and Kravitz, other study authors were Daniel Tancredi, Anthony Jerant and Patrick Romano, all of the UC Davis School of Medicine.

The study, titled "Lifetime Earnings for Physicians across Specialties," will appear in the December print issue of Medical Care.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Leigh JP, Tancredi D, Jerant A, Romano PS, Kravitz RL. Lifetime Earnings for Physicians Across Specialties. Med Care, 2012 Aug 23 [link]

Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis Health System. "New study identifies large gaps in lifetime earnings of specialist and primary-care physicians." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120928093723.htm>.
University of California - Davis Health System. (2012, September 28). New study identifies large gaps in lifetime earnings of specialist and primary-care physicians. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120928093723.htm
University of California - Davis Health System. "New study identifies large gaps in lifetime earnings of specialist and primary-care physicians." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120928093723.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Predicting Heart Transplant Rejection With a Blood Test

Predicting Heart Transplant Rejection With a Blood Test

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Now a new approach to rejection of donor organs could change the way doctors predict transplant rejection…without expensive, invasive procedures. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Better Braces That Vibrate

Better Braces That Vibrate

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) The length of time you have to keep your braces on could be cut in half thanks to a new device that speeds up the process. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone App Tracks Your Heart Rate

Smartphone App Tracks Your Heart Rate

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A new app that can track your heart rate 24/7 is available for download in your app store and its convenience could save your life. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stroke in Young Adults

Stroke in Young Adults

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A stroke can happen at any time and affect anyone regardless of age. This mother chose to give her son independence and continue to live a normal life after he had a stroke at 18 years old. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins