What if doctors worked for free?

Today I am going to write about how the US could save up to 10% on its healthcare bill.

The US spends more on health care than any other nation, $8,500 per person per year. Multiply that by 300 million people and try to grasp the vast sum of $2,5 trillion.

A lot of changes are taking place with the intent to save healthcare dollars. So far, many of those changes have involved creating new layers of middlemen, whose paychecks will come out of the same healthcare budget as MRIs, prescription medicines and physician salaries.

Every so often physician salaries come into focus as a place where money might be saved. Some people even picture physician pay as a major driver of healthcare costs.

Now, I am just a country doctor, and I don’t have an MBA or any financial background. But I used to be pretty good at math, and I’d like to think I still am.

If the 2.5 trillion dollars this country spends on healthcare is paid to or prescribed by our 850,000 physicians, then each doctor controls 3 million dollars from our nation’s healthcare budget.

Of course, physicians aren’t the only providers or prescribers. I don’t have a figure for how much money is controlled by our 100,000 nurse practitioners and 70, 000 physician assistants. I also don’t know what portion of our 50,000 chiropractors’ work falls inside the traditional healthcare budget, but let me assume each physician on average controls only 2-2.5 million dollars worth of products or services.

Then, if every physician took a $200,000 pay cut, we could reduce our healthcare spending by up to 10%!

This would be a 50% pay cut for many surgeons, and would actually make the average primary care doctor have to pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of working. I suspect most wouldn’t.

Is 10% too much to pay the providers of the intellectual and procedural services that are still necessary for $3,000 MRIs and $200/month prescriptions to be used for the right reasons and produce the right outcomes for patients?

Would a symphony fire the conductor to save less than 10%? And would we still want to hear the music if they did?

“A Country Doctor” is a family physician who blogs at A Country Doctor Writes:.

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