Doctor gender-pay gap persists and questions about its causes deepen

Across most specialties, female doctors still earn less than their male counterparts, but the cause, and therefore any potential solution, remains elusive, according to a study published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal.

Reports of pay discrepancies based on physician gender have rolled in for years, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement. While the reason for the pay gap has long been in question, hard evidence has been virtually nonexistent, according to the current study. Researchers sought to adjust reimbursement data to account for the three primary theories accounting for the difference in pay: female physicians undervaluing their services, spending less time on the job or being less productive than their male counterparts.

As a basis for its report, the study used Medicare Fee-for-Service Provider Utilization and Payment Data Physician and Other Supplier Public Use File (PUF) data covering 13 specialties, which yielded an average pay gap of $34,125.68. Adjusting for hours worked, productivity and years of experience narrowed the gap to $18,677.23. While female physicians earned less across all specialties, two (hematology and medical oncology) showed statistically insignificant differentials. The largest gap occurred among nephrologists, at $16,688.96.

While the study used Medicare Part B data as a way to get a good view of reimbursement at the specialty level, the authors concluded they had “no reason to believe that such differentials exist only in this dataset.” They suggest future research focus on whether any links exist between disparities in gender reimbursement and the specific health insurance company being billed.

The bottom line for now remains that, in a large number of medical specialties, male physicians get paid more than female physicians, and the common wisdom surrounding why at the very least fails to tell the whole story. The authors conclude that further research and a “revisiting” of the common theories behind gender-based reimbursement inequity will be necessary to understand and begin to solve the issue.

- read the study