Cardiologist compensation barely keeps up with inflation

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Specialty physicians’ overall compensation remained flat in 2007, (increasing just 0.31 percent, adjusted for inflation, or 3.16 percent without inflation), according to a report from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Specialists’ compensation rose to a median of more than $330,000, and inflation amounted to a 2.85 percent increase in the consumer price index, the report, Physician Compensation and Production Survey: 2008 Report Based on 2007 Data, revealed.

For primary care physicians, MGMA reported that median compensation rose 3.35 percent over inflation (6.3 percent without inflation) to more than $180,000 in 2007. The nominal increase comes after several years of flat or declining compensation. Also, primary care physicians reported a 7.59 percent increase in production (gross charges), and specialists reported flat overall production rates (.60 percent).

Among specialists, MGMA said that invasive cardiologists’ compensation declined (0.18 percent loss) even before inflation. Conversely, noninvasive cardiologists’ compensation increased 11.72 percent. Compensation for emergency medicine physicians and hematology and oncology also failed to keep up with inflation.

William F. Jessee, MD, president and CEO of MGMA, said that trends have shifted for primary care physician compensation in specific regions. Historically, physicians in the southern section of the U.S. have reported slightly higher compensation than the national median of their peers in other regions. For the first time, primary care physicians in the western section were more highly compensated in 2007, according to the report.