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Want a 50% pay cut?

A recent opinion piece in USA Today responds to a study from Columbia University “blaming” high physician salaries as a significant contributor to rising healthcare costs, including the predicted doubling of family health insurance costs by 2021. Since physicians earn approximately five times the US median income, and earn more than physicians in six other developed countries that were studied, it must be physicians’ fault. Let’s cut physician earnings by 50%; that will fix it, right?

Well, maybe not. What about the educational debt owed by physicians, which is often around $300,000?  What about the 30%50% of gross revenue spent on office overhead?  What about the 60-hour average physician work week? What about the fact that the primary care physician shortage by 2020 is estimated to be 40,000?(I’m sure decreasing earnings will help that!) Lastly, what about the fact that physician take home pay accounts for approximately 10% of healthcare costs?

As a family physician who practiced for 20 years and was forced to juggle many of the above factors, I’m a little offended that folks think physician salaries are to blame for the economic woes of the healthcare system. What do you think?

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Filed Under: Physician compensation and employment


Error: Unable to create directory uploads. Is its parent directory writable by the server? About the Author: William F. Mills, M.D., MMM, CPE, FAAFP, CMSL, is currently the senior vice president of quality and professional affairs for the Upper Allegheny Health System located in western NY. Mills is a graduate of Hahnemann University School of Medicine and completed his family practice residency at the West Jersey Health System. He is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and a fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians. Mills is currently a clinical assistant professor at the School of Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo. He is also certified in addiction medicine through the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and currently serves as a medical review officer. Prior to transitioning to full-time administrative medicine, Mills spent more than 20 years as a practicing family physician, and more than 10 years as the medical director of a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility. He also holds a Master of Medical Management degree from the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California and is a Certified Physician Executive from the Certifying Commission in Medical Management.

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