Study: Physician compensation not keeping up with inflation

Last year, just about everyone took a hit from the U.S. economic crisis. Apparently that includes physicians, both primary-care physicians and specialists, whose overall compensation didn't keep up with inflation in 2008, according to new research by the Medical Group Management Association.

According to the MGMA's survey data, primary-care compensation saw a 2 percent increase--or negative-1.73 percent adjusted for inflation, to a median of $186,044. Specialist compensation, meanwhile, rose 2.19 percent, or negative-1.59 percent adjusted for inflation, to a median of $339,738. Meanwhile, U.S. inflation in 2008 hit 3.8 percent.

Among primary-care specialties, internal medicine did the worst on this measure, with an increase of less than 1 percent last year, or negative-3.37 percent when taking inflation into account. Among specialists, meanwhile, emergency medicine physicians, dermatologists and general surgeons fared the worst, with declines of as much as 3.2 percent after inflation.

These results conflict with a recent report by Sullivan, Cotter and Associates that said physicians saw a 2008 compensation increase of around 4 percent. So judge for yourself what's going on here, bearing in mind that MGMA represents physicians. (Who has an incentive to suggest that doctors are underpaid?)

To learn more about this data:
- read this MGMA press release

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