Most physicians see income drop or stagnate in past year

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 - Reimbursement Cuts

In a survey on physician income and job satisfaction, 45 percent of respondents reported their compensation dropped between 2013 and 2014 and another 43 percent saw no change in income.

Jackson Healthcare released results in June from its annual email survey, which included a comparison of responses from physicians who either reported increases or decreases in compensation.

Physicians whose pay dipped compared with the last year were more likely to be mid- to late career and own or retain an ownership stake in a single-specialty practice. Eighty-five percent of this group was older than 45 years and 22 percent worked in some sort of an ownership arrangement.

Compared with physicians whose income rose, they reported that billing and collecting reimbursement from insurance companies, patients, Medicare and Medicaid had become more difficult in the past year. They also noted that patients had tightened their purse strings, whether by delaying services and treatments, by showing a more cost-conscious approach to care or by comparison shopping for services.

Three in four said they would not remain in private practice because of overhead costs, while none of the physicians with pay hikes reported that sentiment. Forty percent considered the outlook for a medical career in 2014 to be generally negative vs. 12 percent whose pay trended up. Sixty-one percent of those with decreased compensation and 31 percent with increased income responded that they would not encourage an aspiring person to go into a medical career.  

Income trends seemed to influence attitudes about continuing in the profession as well. Fourteen percent of physicians whose income dropped were considering a career change or retirement and 11 percent contemplated going part time or working on assignment. By contrast, 91 percent of physicians whose income rose planned to practice medicine in 2014.

Overall, 72 percent of respondents claimed they were satisfied or very satisfied with their careers.  But in the subgroup with a decrease in compensation, 43 percent reported being dissatisfied while 45 percent of those whose income grew were very satisfied with their careers.

Alpharetta, Ga.-based Jackson Healthcare has conducted its annual survey since 2012. The survey included responses from 1,527 physicians.