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US doctors' earnings up, surveys show

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7177.148a (Published 16 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:148
  1. Fred Charatan
  1. Florida

    Doctors working in psychiatry, internal medicine, and gastro-enterology saw the biggest increases in doctors' earnings during 1996-7,according to a recent survey published in the weekly journal Medical Economics.

    But their earnings were still considerably lower than those in the highest paid specialty, neuro-surgery, where practitioners averaged $500000 (£312000) gross a year, or $289000 net (income after deduction of expenses).

    Doctors working in the inner cities saw bigger rises than those working in suburban and rural communities—a difference that is attributed to expanded Medicaid coverage—and those working for health maintenance organisations earned more than those who did not ($281000 gross compared with $214000 gross). Family doctors earned on average $153000 gross and psychiatrists $165000 gross.

    But although doctors' earnings have flattened out somewhat in the past two years, doctors are still benefiting from big increases in the mid-1990s—earnings rose to an average of nearly $200000 a year in 1996.

    A survey by the American Medical Association last year, based on random telephone interviews with 4000doctors across the United States, showed that doctors' incomes in 1996were 10% higher than in 1994and 50% higher than in 1987.

    Doctors in the United States had been alarmed when incomes fell between 1993and 1994by 4% to $182000—the first drop in more than a decade—but the decline did not last long. The medical association's survey showed that by 1996,doctors' earnings had climbed to an average of $199000 gross.

    The highest incomes were reported by doctors in southern states including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana at $229600. The lowest paid were in New England at an average of $169100 gross.

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