Florida Medical Association

FMA Magazine - Q2 2013

Magazine of the Florida Medical Association

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The State of Physican Pay An FMA fact sheet By Jarrod Fowler Physician pay is stagnating. In a 2012 survey of more than 13,000 U.S. physicians, 86 percent described their reimbursements as flat or decliningi. Another recent study published in Medical Economics illustrates that pay increases for primary care physicians have been essentially flat for the past six yearsii. In addition, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that between 2001 and 2010, the general costs of running a practice have increased 53.64 percent. During the same period, operating revenues for multi-specialty groups not owned by hospitals or integrated delivery systems have risen only 45.87 percentiii. The cost of attending medical school is rising. Since 1998, the average debt of graduating medical school students has grown from $85,200 to $161,300iv. After adjusting for inflation, this amounts to a 37.2-percent increase. Around 86 percent of all medical school students graduate with debt. A recent study by Jackson Healthcare revealed that physician pay accounts for only 8.6 percent of health care spending in the United Statesv. By comparison, physician pay accounts for 11.6 percent of health care spending in Australia, 11 percent in France, 15 percent in Germany and 9.7 percent in the United Kingdomvi. While individual physician salaries tend to be higher in the United States than in other industrialized nations, they do not account for a higher percentage of overall health care spending. Reducing physician salaries will not solve America's health care spending crisis. Furthermore, the higher physician salaries in the U.S. are also accompanied by greater medical school debt and malpractice liability. The road to becoming a physician in the United States is extremely long and challenging. Relative to other high-paying professions, becoming a physician requires significantly more education. Physicians typically spend four years earning an undergraduate degree, four more years in medical school, and anywhere from three to eight years in residency and fellowship programs before independently practicing medicine. All together, becoming a fully trained and licensed physician generally takes between 11 to 16 yearsvii. Even after completing all of these requirements, physicians must take continuing medical education (CME) courses to maintain their licenses. It's also worth noting that medical schools, residencies and fellowships are competitive. In 2010 and 2011, less than half of all medical school applicants were acceptedviii. By comparison, becoming an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) typically takes between six and seven years. Becoming an optometrist or pharmacist typically takes between eight and nine years. Becoming an attorney requires around seven years of education. Physicians don't practice medicine to become wealthy. In a 2012 survey, 87 percent of practicing physicians and 84 percent of residents ranked their ability to help people with their medical needs

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