Docs Miss the $ Boat-Again

Physician's Money Digest, April30 2003, Volume 10, Issue 8

You know those big bucksthat so many professionalsmade during the go-go financial years of the late 1990s?Well, it appears physicians missedout on that. This comes as no surpriseto our readers.

According to a survey from theCenter for Studying Health SystemChange (HSC; www.hschange.org),a nonpartisan policy research organization,the average annual net income(adjusted for inflation) forAmerica's medical practitioners fellby 5% from 1995 to 1999.

THE PCP HITM

The decline was even steeper forprimary care doctors, whose averageannual net income fell by nearly6.5%. Meanwhile, the average annualnet income for other skilled professionalsjumped by 3.5% during thelate 1990s. Net income is after expensesand before taxes.

"The real-dollar decline in physicianincome may explain why theyhave objected so strongly to Medicarepayment reductions and whyfewer physicians are providing charitycare," said Paul Ginsburg, PhD,study coauthor and HSC president,which is funded by the Robert WoodJohnson Foundation.

Authors said the growth of managedcare in the mid-1990s played arole in declining physician income byholding down spending on physicianservices through discounted fees andrestrictions on the use of care.

The national survey of 12,000US practicing physicians found theaverage annual net income for allpatient care doctors during the 1999boom economic year was $187,000.It was $138,000 for primary caredoctors and $219,000 for specialists.

HOLD FAST

The survey just reinforces whatI've long thought. Much of those socalledboom times were largely consumedby fraud and irresponsibility,for which we're all paying now. Andwhile the income increases might nothave been there for the doctors, atleast they can take solace in the factthat they were really helping people.That's meaningful.