Compensation for primary care doctors outpaced specialties in 2015

It quite literally paid off to be a primary care doctor in 2015, according to a new salary survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Compensation for primary care doctors last year outpaced increases for physicians in specialty care--although those specialists still earn more, according to a survey announcement from the MGMA. Based on comparative data of more than 80,000 providers, the survey found that median compensation for primary care physicians rose more than 4 percent over 2014 to more than $250,000. By comparison, compensation for specialists grew by more than 3 percent to about $425,000. Both grew at a faster rate than in 2014, the survey found.

"New care delivery models for primary care are shaping the landscape of healthcare delivery, and in turn shaping patient experiences in doctors' offices around the country," Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D, the MGMA's president and CEO said in the announcement.

The increased compensation comes at a time when primary care physicians are taking on more responsibility, she said. "Practices are giving primary care physicians significant new responsibility for coordinating care among specialists, managing patient medications, and helping patients and caregivers manage chronic conditions. As we shift toward value-based payment, practices will continue to look to primary care and non-physician providers to lead efforts to improve patient experiences and the quality of care they provide," she commented.

The survey found pay for non-physician providers also increased in 2015, growing by almost 4 percent to about $107.000. The survey also reported the following results:

  • Primary care compensation has grown faster than that for specialty care over time, increasing by 18 percent over the past five years compared to an 11 percent growth for specialty care.
  • Primary care doctors in Alaska, Wisconsin and Arkansas earned the highest salaries in 2015; while those in Nevada, Maine and Maryland earned the least. For specialty care providers, those in Wisconsin, Nevada and Nebraska reported the highest salaries; while those in Maryland, Wyoming and Pennsylvania reported the lowest..
  • Surgeons were the highest paid doctors. The five highest-paid surgical specialties in 2015 were pediatric cardiovascular, neurological, Mohs surgery, orthopedic spinal and neurological.
  • There were dramatic differences in quality of life measures between specialties. Anesthesiologists, cardiologists, pathologists and gastroenterologists worked up to nine weeks less than diagnostic radiologists and nephrologists, who worked the greatest number of weeks in 2015. And less work doesn't translate to less pay. Except for pathologists, doctors in those specialties who worked fewer weeks also enjoyed far larger total compensation packages, the survey said.

To learn more:
- read the survey announcement