Look, this is nothing against doctors. We all love our doctors (except the bad or obnoxious ones, or the ones on the take from the drug industry), and we want them to do good work because, well, our lives depend on it. But honestly, the complaining that goes on about their malpractice insurance premiums!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the top 10 earning occupations in this country, nine are doctors and dentists (ok, I'm counting podiatrists in that.) (And no, consumer advocates don’t make the top 10. Nor do lawyers, by the way.) But that’s not all. According to a new study published in Health Affairs, being a U.S. physician these days is about as close to hitting the international professional jackpot as winning big at the Monte Carlo crap tables.
As the New York Times wrote yesterday,
“American primary care and orthopedic physicians are paid more for each service than are their counterparts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom,” said the study, by Sherry A. Glied, an assistant secretary of health and human services, and Miriam J. Laugesen, an assistant professor of health policy at Columbia.
The study, being published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, found that the incomes of primary care doctors and orthopedic surgeons were substantially higher in the United States than in other countries. Moreover, it said, the difference results mainly from higher fees, not from higher costs of the doctors’ medical practice, a larger number or volume of services or higher medical school tuition.
Also, “Medical students often cite higher pay as a reason for choosing to become specialists.” For example, “’Among orthopedic surgeons, those who had the highest annual pretax incomes, net of expenses, were in the United States,’” with an average of $442,450, the study said.” So this is interesting. Because of the way insurers rates doctors – by specialty, not by experience – specialists like orthopedic surgeons automatically pay more for malpractice insurance. But rather than running away from these kinds of specialties, med students are heading straight for them! That’s how much money they’re gonna make.
Nor should malpractice premiums be an issue for any physician right now. Malpractice premiums rate hikes are cyclical for reasons having nothing to do with claims or payouts or a state’s particularly “tort” laws. (That means you too, Texas.) And we’ve been in an extended “soft market” (stable/low rates) for awhile now. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this article from Modern Medicine magazine:
Under increasing pressure from third-party payers and facing the uncertainty of healthcare reform, physicians have been able to find some comfort in stable or, in some cases, declining medical liability premiums.
The years-long pattern of plateaued premiums continues, according to Medical Economics' 2010 Exclusive Survey on malpractice, part of our Continuing Study that also examined earnings (September 24 issue) and productivity (October 22 issue).
So pull yourselves together and stop all that crying, Doctor Doctor Mr. Md. Things could be worse. You could be anywhere else in the world, where patients don’t have to pay to see you.