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Primary Care Docs See Slight Pay Hike in 2009

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 23, 2010

Primary care physicians saw a 2.8% increase in their median compensation in 2009, according to a Medical Group Management Association study released today.

The Physician Compensation and Production Survey: 2010 Report Based on 2009 Data found that while most specialists continued to receive higher overall compensation than their primary care counterparts, some specialists reported flat or falling compensation.

"Despite a convergence of economic factors, employers' and payers' increased commitment to preserve the ability of primary care physicians to do their important work has allowed their compensation to keep pace with inflation," said William F. Jessee, MD, president and CEO of MGMA. "However, the continued threat of cuts to Medicare payments and its impact on private insurance reimbursement to all physicians impedes practices' ability to deliver quality care to an ever-expanding patient population."

OB/GYN, invasive cardiology, and hematology/oncology were among the specialties that reported flat or declining incomes. Physicians in OB/GYN posted a 1.1% decline in total median compensation in 2009, while invasive cardiologists posted a 0.2% decrease. Physicians in hematology/oncology—who have experienced declining revenues in their practices as a result of reduced reimbursement for administering drugs—reported that their compensation has increased 2.2% since 2005.

In marked contrast, dermatologists posted the largest compensation gains, a 12.2% median increase. MGMA attributed the steady compensation gains of dermatologists over the last several years to their elective procedures not covered by insurance and for which dermatologists can collect the full fee at the time of service. An increase in demand for dermatology services may also have driven up their compensation. Ophthalmologists reported a 7.7% increase in 2009 as laser refractive surgery and other non-covered services became increasingly popular.

MGMA's Physician Compensation and Production Survey Report provides data on nearly 60,000 physicians and non-physician providers in more than 110 specialties.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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