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Docs Hope for Incentive Bonuses to Offset Smaller Pay Increases

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2013

Physician compensation will increasingly include incentives, but the transition may be more of an evolution than a revolution. Meanwhile, primary care doctors may continue to get a "bump up" in salaries.

The discussion at a recent hospital compensation committee meeting focused on dwindling physician salaries, recalls Jim Otto, senior principal for the Hay Group consulting firm that works with healthcare officials on physician payment. Before they finished the meeting, a hospital official asked: "Who's going to tell these physicians that they are not going to make as much in the coming years as they had?"

Nobody jumped to volunteer, that's for sure.

While physicians' total pay will still increase this year, the percentage salary growth will be lower than in previous years, says Otto, of the Philadelphia-based Hay Group, referring to the organization's 2013 Physician compensation prevalence and planning report. At least 50 physician groups and hospitals participated in the survey, conducted in March, which covered 132 specialties.

Overall, there has been a "slowdown in pay increases" for specialists, but a "bump up" for primary care physicians, Otto says. That reflects the general demand for primary care and federal reimbursement enhancements for generalists, he adds.

In the meantime, "there may be more emphasis for incentive payouts" in the years ahead, Otto says. Generally, incentive pay has been pegged at 10% to 15% of base salaries annually.

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