Physician Compensation: Same Story, Different Day

Physician's Money Digest, September15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 17

2004 Physician

Compensation and Production

Survey

For most of today's practicingphysicians, the income growthpicture remains pretty unappetizing.According to results from theMedical Group Management Association(MGMA; www.mgma.com) (based on 2003 data), when youfactor in the expenses of life, economictimes are tough. In short, compensationis not keeping up with workloads.

Primary Care Wages

Based on surveys of about 2000 USmedical practices, primary care doctorsrealized a 2.4% annual compensationincrease last year to $159,902, while specialistssaw a 7.9% bump to $296,464.These increases, when included in thecontext of the past 5 years (1999 to2003), indicate an even more alarmingtrend—compensation for primary carephysicians rose only a feeble 1.8% peryear (and 4.1% for specialists).

Even in this age of low inflation, thosesalary numbers are troublesome. "Growthin primary care has been so limited that wefear this field could become unattractive toyoung physicians," says William Jessee, MD,CMPE, MGMA president. "Primary caredoctors will continue to struggle to surviveunless their financial viability improves."

The greatest compensation increase inprimary care went to pediatric and adolescentmedicine doctors; the 4% bumpraised the average salary to $158,853.Family doctors (without OBs) saw theirannual compensation climb by a paltry1.4% last year to $152,478, and internistswere up 2.8% to $159,978. During the past5 years, the biggest total increase (11%)went to pediatric and adolescent medicinedoctors, while the smallest (7.7%) went tofamily practice doctors.

Specialist Salaries

Ophthalmologists enjoyed the biggestannual salary increase among medical specialists,up 17.9% to $300,020. Next on thelist were urologists (up 16.9% to $344,038),noninvasive cardiologists (up 13.9% to$349,416), and orthopedic surgeons (up9.6% to $397,059). The specialists who sufferedthe smallest compensation increasesin 2002 were psychiatrists (-0.3% to$162,572), oncologists (1.6% to $315,603),and OB/GYN doctors (1.7% to $237,191).

During the past 5 years, the biggesttotal increase among specialists went todermatologists (up 36.6% to $285,692),ophthalmologists (up 36.5%), and gastroenterologists(up 32.9% to $351,614).The specialists with the smallest 5-yeartotal increase were psychiatrists (7%),neurologists (7.1% to $190,973), andOB/GYN doctors (up 8.3%).