Photo thanks to Physicians for Human Rights via Flickr.

Specialists Still Amongst the Highest Paid Doctors - To Their Dismay

Cortney Ikpe

Contrary to the rumors of plummeting compensation and minimal benefits due to the increased demand for healthcare afforded by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, physicians’ salaries are still among the highest paid salaries in the country with nine of the top ten highest paying careers in the medical field. Highlights of the 2012 MGMA Physician Compensation Survey Report emphasize significant increases in median compensation across the board with the greatest increase for Radiology: Diagnostic-invasive specialist (over 10% based on 2010-2011 MGMA Data). Other significant shifts include Internal medicine and Anesthesiology at approximately 5% and 4.6% respectively.

Physician income has been on a consistent incline overall for the past few years with nearly a third of all surveyed specialties earning a median salary of $300,000 or more. Medscape’s Compensation Report 2012 show similar results with the top earning specialties Orthopedics, Cardiology, Radiology, Gastroenterology, Urology ($340,000), and Anesthesiology ($337,000) each averaging above $330,000. The compensation totals include salary, paid bonuses, and profit-sharing for all employed physicians and excludes non-patient related activities (eg, speaking engagements, product sales, and expert witness fees). The majority of these specialties also boasted a significant increase in salary wage from 2011-2012 with Orthopedics and Nephrology making the greatest gains (27% and 20% overall) and Endocrinology and Oncology showing a slight decline (-3% and -4% respectively).

The geographical location of employed physicians also holds substantial bearing on differences in earned salary. According to the Health and Human Services (HHS) regional data, HHS Region 7 or simply Central USA (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska) reported the highest compensations for specialty-care physicians. On average, salaries are 16.4% higher in the middle of the country than in any other region. Also consistent with prior years, the Northeast region of the country (HHS Region 1) earns drastically lower than the rest of the country (on average 18.4% lower). The lower salaries in this region are undoubtedly due to the dense practicing physicians to population ratio within the region.

The Physician Compensation Report 2013 indicates similar trends to that of the prior years. Though physician paid salaries continue to increases surveys have shown an alarming increase of unsatisfied physicians with their compensation and benefits (approximately 52% among all physicians and 49% among primary care physicians according to the latest Medscape 2013 report). With the looming implementation of ACA provisions and potential for future declines in reimbursement, perhaps it is more essential now more than ever for physicians to seek proper consultation and further negotiate compensation and benefits to ensure an ideal work culture is provided.