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Primary Care Gaining in Physician Compensation

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, November 26, 2012

"What is imperative is that the federal government finally corrects the SGR and gives physicians of all specialty types the stability they need in these uncertain times to be able to make strong business decisions for the sustainability of their practices into the future," says Evenson.

According to the 2012 MGMA survey, primary care first-year guaranteed compensation in a single-specialty practice grew by 9.3% since 2009. Single-specialty practice first-years in 2011 earned 5.9% more than those in multispecialty practices.

The increase in first-year compensation growth in the primary care setting shows that hospitals and integrated delivery systems are working hard to appeal to new physicians looking for that work style and a higher first-year guaranteed income, says Evenson. "It's not to say that primary care provider, if they were in a single-specialty practice, couldn't earn more, but they might be exposed to more risk."

Although primary care compensation is experiencing growth, first-year specialty care compensation remains higher, with median salary of $255,000 versus $175,000 for first-year primary care placements. Although compensation is not the only factor in determining a specialty, it plays a role, with student loans averaging $161,290 for the 2011 graduating class of medical students and 86% of medical students carrying outstanding loans, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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