In Maryland, female doctors’ salaries about 50% less than male colleagues'

Reports of disparities in salaries between male and female physicians aren't new, but the pay gap among Maryland doctors is a shocker.

A new survey conducted for the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) found that male physicians in that state earn $335,000 a year on average, compared to $224,000 for female physicians—a difference of almost 50%.

“The biggest disparities we see in compensation are between male and female physicians in Maryland. Though such disparities have been noted in other research, it is still surprising to see the extent to which they persist,” said Gene Ransom, MedChi’s CEO, in an announcement (PDF) about the survey of 508 Maryland physicians.

The disparity also showed up when compared on a specialty-by-specialty basis. For example, male family physicians in Maryland earn an annual average of $243,000, compared to $164,000 for female family medicine doctors, a difference of 48%. And it didn’t matter how many hours physicians work. Male internal medicine physicians working 41 hours a week or more earn 37% more than female counterparts working the same number of hours, the survey conducted by Merritt Hawkins, the physician search company, found.

In comparison, a separate Doximity study earlier this year, found the gender gap increased nationally as female doctors earned 27.7% less, or an average of $105,000, than their male counterparts.

While the study focused only on Maryland, they reflect a wider trend in gender pay disparities in medicine between men and women. What accounts for these differences is difficult to determine, Jeremy Robinson, regional vice president with Merritt Hawkins said. “There is little difference in the starting salaries of male and female physicians in the contracts we see. But clearly, physician gender income disparities are real,” he said.

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One factor that may come into play: The survey found that male physicians are more likely to be in independent private practice than female physicians, where income is higher. Close to half of male physicians surveyed (48.9%) indicate they are in independent private practice, compared to 35.4% of female physicians.

The study also found that physicians in Maryland, whether male or female, earn less on average than physicians nationally—in many cases less than typical starting salaries in other areas of the country. In 15 different medical specialties, 14 earn less in total compensation than the national starting salary in their specialties as tracked by Merritt Hawkins. Robinson attributed that difference to the relatively large number of physicians per capita in Maryland, low reimbursement rates in the state and the presence of managed care.

Other results from the survey found:

  • Only 41% of Maryland physicians participate in Medicare’s new physician payment system established under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). Over one-quarter said they do not participate, while almost one-third said they are unsure, reflecting continued uncertainly among physicians about the payment model. A survey of over 700 internal medicine physicians in the spring of 2017 found that more than 60% of doctors reported little to no familiarity with the Merit-based Incentive Payment System that is one of the two tracks under MACRA.
  • 78% of physicians said quality metrics, such as patient satisfaction scores, accounted for only 20% or less of their 2017 earnings.
  • Maryland physicians who are employed earn 7.9% less than physicians who own their practices. Approximately 44% of survey respondents said they are private practice owners or partners, while 53% are employees of various organizations, including hospitals, medical groups, community health centers, government agencies or urgent care centers.