MD expenses drained the coffers at Calif. hospitals by $1.6B

California hospitals paid physicians more than $1.6 billion in nonemployee professional fees in 2008, accounting for 3.6 percent of total hospital expenses, according to healthcare data firm MD Ranger Inc. in Burlingame, Calif. By comparison, physician services comprised 2.7 percent of total hospital expenses in 2001.

"Physician expenses are increasing rapidly across the board, especially at trauma centers, and our data confirm that trend," says CEO Penny Stroud. "More and more, hospitals are paying physicians for on-call coverage and medical direction duties they used to perform as part of their medical staff duties."

Trauma centers' per-hospital average for physician expenses totaled almost $13 million in 2008 vs. $7.1 million in 2001--an average annual growth rate of 8 percent, says MD Ranger. At non-trauma hospitals, per-hospital expenses grew from $1.8 million in 2001 to $4.9 million in 2008--an average annual growth rate of 16 percent.

California hospitals paid the highest on-call rates for trauma surgery ($2,434 per day median) and the lowest for psychiatry ($121 per day median). On-call doctors treating uninsured patients didn't fare well: Only 19 percent of hospitals paid them additional compensation. In addition, independent hospitals didn't pay as much as hospital systems (19 percent less on average).

To learn more about the costs of on-call services in California:
- read the San Francisco Business Times article
- here's the MD Ranger press release