Overall Physician Compensation Levels Fell in 2009

The bad economy cuts into 2009 physicians’ paychecks.  Doctors’ salaries fell slightly in 2009, according to the 17th annual Physician Compensation Survey compiled by Modern Healthcare magazine.

The most recent survey tracked 23 specialties and determined that only five had average pay increases higher than the 2.7 percent inflation rate calculated by the Consumer Price Index.  These were dermatology, which rose 5.3 percent; pediatrics, which rose 4.5 percent; neurology and pathology, which rose 3.3 percent; and hospital medicine, which rose 2.8 percent.  Orthopedic surgeons topped out the compensation list with their average pay climbing 1.9 percent to $485,297.

Eight specialties saw slight decreases.  Plastic surgery was down 3.3 percent to $376,849; gastroenterology was down 2.8 percent to $409,628; intensive medicine was down 1.7 percent to $257,797; radiation oncology was down 1.7 percent to $420,661; urology was down 1.4 percent to $391,406; emergency medicine was down 1.1 percent to $266,826; invasive cardiology was down 0.9 percent to $450,016; and noninvasive cardiology was down 0.9 percent to $393,181.

According to William Jessee, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, “Clearly, there had to be some impact from the economy.  Actually, I was pleased the numbers were as good as they were given the recession.  Certainly, it showed a comeback in the second half of 2009.”  A pediatrician, Jessee, added that primary-care physicians saw their pay rise by 2.8 percent last year, which he views as part of an effort to attract more medical school graduates to that specialty.  He warns against over-reacting to the data.  “Keep in mind the increase is not anything to write home about – 2.8 percent is not a windfall,” Jessee said.

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