Reduce health costs? Stop focusing on physician salaries.

Reduce health costs? Stop focusing on physician salaries.My latest USA Today column is now up: Doctors are not overpaid. I explain why focusing on physician salaries won’t do much to dent health costs.

Also, as I wrote in a prior blog post, “Pay me like a French doctor. You know you want to,” any salary comparison with other countries also needs to consider their costs of medical education and medical malpractice:

Proponents who want to bring the salaries of U.S. doctors in line with those from Europe must also offer government-subsidized medical education and nationally regulated medical malpractice systems that many European nations enjoy …

Better yet, stop targeting physician salaries altogether. Let’s focus on other factors that have a much bigger impact on health costs: wasteful spending and administrative overhead.

Enjoy the column.

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  • Jennifer Jonsson

    People who complain about physicians getting paid too much never seem to have a problem with politicians who have $50,000 speaker fees, or actors or musicians who make hundreds of thousands in a day. Why is that?

    • JR DNR

      Musicians and Athletes in particular usually have a very short lived career where they quickly make a large sum of money that they have to budget to spend over the course of the rest of their life, rather than a steady yearly income. Female Actors tend to be in the same boat, though male actors sometimes have long careers. The average yearly acting income of a member of the screen actor’s guild is only $5,000 a year, so highly compensated actors are the minority. It seems to be the female actors who get the most paparazzi attention as well: photos of their swimwear, photos of going to the store, photos when they didn’t wear makeup… even after they have retired and are no longer making an acting income.

      Can’t really comment on politicians.

      • azmd

        Actaully, that’s a valid point, and it’s quite germane to us doctors, too, since our careers are pretty short-lived these days.
        If you are a doctor, you don’t get done with residency training and start earning a living until you are in your early-to-mid thirties. These days, you can be in your forties before you are done paying back your medical school loans and can start saving for your retirement.
        Also, the back end of our career (when we have to retire) is being increasingly pushed earlier and earlier by a variety of factors including burnout and also ever-more onerous cognitive requrements for maintaining licensure and certification.
        The length of time that a physician has to earn and save for retirement is getting shorter and shorter, at the same time that college costs for children are skyrocketing and the future of Social Security is becoming more uncertain. It’s no wonder that people like me are telling our children in no uncertain terms that we won’t support their going into medicine.

      • James O’Brien, M.D.

        Too bad politician’s careers aren’t shorter than female gymnasts or running backs. We’d all be better off.

    • JR DNR

      Oh I forgot to add the “I don’t really care about physician salaries”‘ disclaimer. Now I’m going to get a lot of “OMG YOU THINK PHYSICIANS ARE OVERCOMPENSATED!” comments even though I never said anything like that.

    • Patient Kit

      Simply put, I think the reason why some actors and athletes are paid so much money is because it’s a reflection of what we value as a culture, which is, in a word — celebrity. The business side of those industries will say that those guys get paid so much because they fill the seats of theaters and stadiums. Stars sell tickets and related merchandise.

      Regular people, not in those industries, though, they just worship celebrity and fame and the fantasy of it all. And, ironically, regular people worship rich people so much that they are happy to help make them even richer.

      Meanwhile, while people do value doctors theoretically in a very abstract way, they don’t really start valuing doctors until they or someone they love really really needs a good doctor. And even then, doctors don’t fulfill any fantasies like actors and athletes do. In fact, docs are associated with some pretty bad times in people’s lives.

      Hence, A-Rod makes much more money (even now!) than any doctor makes. ;-(

  • buzzkillerjsmith

    I agree completely with your editorial. Given comments I have read about similar editorials at different websites, I suspect it will convince absolutely no one.

  • QQQ

    It just a never ending cycle on bullying medical doctors! It will continue until the agenda is fulfilled!

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