Monday, July 30, 2007
Do Doctors Make Too Much Money?
An article in the New York Times says the reason health care costs are so high in the United States is because doctors are paid too much. I saw that and my eyes bugged out. I just came home from a meeting with physicians and hospital administrators and the entire meeting was spent discussing the financial challenges physicians face in keeping their doors open to see patients. The goal of this meeting was to keep health services in that community so patients will have someone to care for them. Not a person in the room would agree that the doctors earn too much.
Physicians paid too much? Lets break that down. A doctor spends a minimum of 11 years in education and training after the age of 18. Many are in training for 15 or more years. They are living on student loans and contributing zero to their family's income until the residency years. At that time they earn less than minimum wage if you factor in the 80-100 hour workweek. When a doctor emerges from training (and believe me, there is less sex and fun than is portrayed on ER or Gross Anatomy) he/she averages $160K debt, is over 30 years old and is usually feeling older. For another view of training check out this surgeon's experience.
Let's face it, people do not choose a career in medicine to make money. The opportunities are much greater in business, law or computer programing. Policemen that work overtime make more money than primary care doctors. (Before you make comments...I also believe policemen are underpaid.) Some specialties are well paid and they should be. Frankly I WANT my neurosurgeon to be highly reimbursed because I want to believe she is the cream of the crop. In fact, I want all of my doctors to be the top notch and I want them all highly paid.
The range of the average American's physician pay is between $140 -350K. Many earn less and some earn more. Many doctors work several different jobs (nursing home director, clinical research trials, insurance reviewer) just to supplement their income from seeing patients.
Health care reform is not about lowering physician salaries. Professions that are highly skilled, require extensive training and commitment deserve to be paid at the highest levels of society. There is enough waste, duplication, greed, payola, and inefficiency in health care to cover all Americans AND pay physicians well.
So what do you think? Are physician's overpaid? What about you readers in the UK , Canada, France, Germany and Australia? Are American doctors spoiled?
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:43 PM