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Primary Care Gaining in Physician Compensation

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, November 26, 2012

The annual Physician Placement Starting Salary Survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) provides salary and benefits benchmarking data for recruiters and healthcare organizations. It also provides a snapshot into important trends in healthcare—namely, a continued emphasis on primary care services.

The 2012 compensation survey, based on data from 2011, shows that both primary care and specialty care groups have increased their median first-year compensation rates—a trend that began in 2006—but primary care compensation has grown 25% compared to specialty care's 10% growth.

But one of the survey's authors warns that these trends are imperiled by the uncertainty around the sustainable growth rate formula. The growth in primary care compensation is all predicated, at least in the short run, on the belief that the SGR formula will be remedied and encourage physician spending, says Todd B. Evenson, MBA, assistant director of survey operations at MGMA. "It's anybody's guess as to what will happen if that's not corrected."

"What we're finding now, in terms of uncertainty in the marketplace and specifically year over year, all that [the SGR] does is promote a situation where it becomes a protectionist type of environment," says Evenson. "There's lots of confusion about what the correct thing is to do, and as a result it's difficult to reinvest dollars because the uncertainty and chaos that exists in the space."

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