Female doctors get smaller share of Medicare money

Female doctors make about half as much as their male counterparts in the Medicare system, according to a study by the finance site NerdWallet.

Male doctors make an average of $118,782 per year in Medicare reimbursements, 88 percent more than female doctors' average yearly earnings of $63,346, according to Nerdwallet. The study also found:

  • Male doctors treat an average of 513 Medicare patients each year compared to women physicians who care for an average of 320 patients per year--a 60 percent difference

  • Male doctors on average make 24 percent more per Medicare patient than female doctors

  • Male doctors perform more services per patient treated, a gap that persists across specialties

Prior research on the gender pay gap subject indicates that male doctors generally work longer hours and dominate more lucrative surgical fields, according to the study. This data illustrates a larger issue with Medicare: the fact that the program offers incentives for providing more services and generating further costs. "These costs are both financial, in the form of additional copayments, as well as medical, in the form of increased exposure to a healthcare system in which over 210,000 patients die annually from medical errors," the study states.

Several other factors could influence the gap as well, according to the study, including:

  • Geography, because Medicare reimbursements vary by location

  • Care setting, because Medicare pays less to physicians in hospital environments than in clinic settings

  • Coding variations

  • Incomplete data, because Medicare withheld data "when less than 11 patients were treated by an individual doctor for a given procedure code" due to privacy concerns

A study last October found male early-career physician researchers are paid more than female ones, for reasons that remain unclear. Neither work hours, specialty, academic rank nor research time accounted for the discrepancy, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

And although male and female physicians both make more money than they did in 2010, according to a Medscape study on 2014 physician compensation, male doctors' pay remains higher.

To learn more:
- read the study
- here's the Medscape research

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