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Seriously? Doctors say they're underpaid
May 1st, 2012
10:55 AM ET

Seriously? Doctors say they're underpaid

Anthony Youn, M.D., is a plastic surgeon in metro Detroit. He is the author of “In Stitches,” a humorous memoir about growing up Asian American and becoming a doctor.

Full disclosure: I have no complaints about how much I make.

But many other physicians are not as satisfied - a recent study by Medscape revealed that 49% of doctors believe they're not fairly compensated. Of primary care physicians, this percentage increases to 54%.

It’s no myth that doctors are some of the highest paid professionals in the country. So why are they complaining?

It’s likely because of situations like Dr. Peterson’s.

Dr. Peterson is a plastic surgeon whom I worked with during my residency. A kind, competent physician, his new, fledgling practice consisted of reconstructive surgery. He treated women with breast cancer, paraplegics with pressure sores, and burn patients.

I was the on-call plastic surgery resident one night when a 42-year-old man - let’s call him Dave - was brought into the hospital at 3 a.m. He had fallen off a roof while intoxicated. Dave broke several bones in his face and shattered his lower leg.

I stumbled out of bed and met Dr. Peterson in the ER, where we spent the next three hours assessing Dave’s injuries and repairing his lacerations. Five days later Dr. Peterson and I performed an eight-hour operation, reconstructing his broken facial bones and performing a muscle transfer to help heal his fractured legs. For the next two months, we visited Dave in the hospital each and every day, changing his bandages and making sure he healed properly.

Not once did Dave thank Dr. Peterson for his care.

Instead, Dave took more than $3,000 from him.

Close scrutiny

Quite possibly no other occupation in the country receives such attention regarding the income its members receive. And that’s not a new trend - more than 70% of respondents of a survey published in the 1985 American Journal of Public Health believed doctors were overpaid.

The Medscape survey found the average physician compensation now ranges from a high of $315,000 for orthopedic surgeons to a low of $156,000 for pediatricians. Sounds pretty good right?

Consider that physicians must complete at least four years of college, four years of medical school, and between three to eight years of residency training prior to becoming a real, practicing doctor. Many physicians don’t start earning “doctor-level” salaries until they are well into their 30s.

A 2009 survey by U.S. News found the typical medical student graduated with $141,132 in debt. The graduates of some schools averaged more than $200,000 in loans.
So how do doctors’ salaries compare with other well-paying professions?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average computer and information system manager earns $125,660 per year. The average lawyer makes $130,490 per year. Orthodontists take home $204,670. The New York Times recently reported the average base pay for managing directors at Morgan Stanley is $400,000. At Goldman Sachs, it’s $600,000. The average salary of an NFL player is $1.9 million. NBA players average $5.15 million per year.

Just for putting a ball in a hoop.

When you consider these numbers, the thought of pediatricians making $156,000 a year doesn’t seem unreasonable. They often see 50 patients per day, answer our calls at all hours, and keep our kids healthy.

What about critical care physicians? They average $240,000 a year, but are responsible for keeping the sickest of us alive. One-quarter of critical care physicians spend more than 65 hours per week with their patients, not including time doing paperwork.

Unlike most other professions, there is a ceiling to what most doctors can earn. Physician compensation is tightly controlled by the government and insurance companies. Medicine is also the only profession where its members are required to sometimes work for free.

No return on investment

Which brings us back to Dave.

Three months later, I accompanied Dr. Peterson in his clinic to see Dave for a follow-up appointment. Dr. Peterson seemed a bit distracted. At the end of the visit I found out why.

“I’m glad you’re doing so well, Dave,” said Dr. Peterson.

“Yeah, I’m really happy with how things have turned out,” he replied.

“So Dave, this is a little awkward for me, but I need to ask you something. Two weeks ago your insurance company sent you a check for $3,200 to forward to me for all my surgical and office fees.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well, um,” Dr. Peterson stuttered. “We never received it from you.”

“No, you didn’t. I cashed it and spent it.”

“Dave, why would you do that?”

“I figured you’re a rich doctor. I need the money more than you.”

What do you think? Are doctors being underpaid? Tell us in the comments below.


soundoff (2,191 Responses)
  1. paulm5545

    Well, using "Dave" as an example hardly supports the hypothesis that doctor's are underpaid. "Dave," of course, suffered far more than having a few bones shattered; he seriously shattered what was left of any brain he may have had. All that aside, how much did the insurance company provide to the doctor for the surgery, follow-up visits, and everything else associated with a hospital stay? And it sounds like the good doctor should have a discussion with "Dave's" insurance company.

    How about this for an example. I made an appointment with a doctor to have a colonoscopy. My initial visit was approximately 10-15 minutes long. The doctor asked me questions that I had already answered on the medical history form and then we talked about my accent and where I was from. He had me lay on my back, tapped my stomach and checked the outside of my neck. Didn't check my blood pressure, use a tongue depressor, needle...nothing. Again, all in about 10-15 minutes. My bill: $275.00. I can't wait to see what he charged for the actual colonoscopy.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jill

      Exactly, they charge hundreds of dollars for minutes worth of work that account for nothing. This is what I meant by Dr's do get over paid. And as far as their school bills, they can pay them off in 2 years time with their salary. So many other professions require alot of education and on the job training also but the salaries dont match and their loans take years to pay off. When you read Forums almost all med students say they go into medicine for the love of it and not the money....but yet after they become Dr's its all about money, why is that?

      May 1, 2012 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      Talk to a lawyer on the phone for 10-15 minutes and you will be charged about $100 and you don't have insurance to cover it. Many doctors don't have to do a complete and thorough physical exam because because they already know your diagnosis after treating so many patients with the same symptoms.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • Bud

      You have the wrong aproach. Simply say "No Ebla Englas" and you'll get everything youeed for free.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Good one guys...
      Doctors are not overpaid, they're under appreciated! try putting off starting your life and family to trudge through 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 3-8 years of 80+ hour work week residency at 35-60k per year, only to finally start working as a doctor by age 30, close to 300k in debt, and be at a point in life where you ARE ready to buy a home, get a new car cause you've been too poor to do so before, and start a family (all of which are expensive). The idea that Doctors pay off their loans in "a couple" of years is ridiculous. Just ask your doctor how long it took them to pay it off.

      And I haven't seen anybody mention the fact that these same docs making "too much" are also paying out their rear ends for malpractice insurance because of peoples insane lawsuits. So much of a docs pay is going towards protecting themselves from the greedy non-compliant people hoping to score some money from their illness. I'm not saying there aren't cases where the doc screwed up and a lawsuit is warranted. Want docs to make less money? support legislation aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits to bring down malpractice rates. or better yet? stop eating potato chips and drinking soda, get healthier, and take responsibility for your health and quit blaming the overpaid docs.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
    • Khristy

      You have to remember that when you have a procedure done you are not just paying the doctor but all of the staff that include the anesthesiologist, nurses, those that clean the room day and night, assistants that schedule your appointment, as well as overhead for running the hospital on a daily basis. The real money makers in this are those that run the hospitals and the insurance companies.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
    • A PhD and you can't figure it out?

      Really Jill? 200K in loans you think can be paid off after 2 years of making 150K? Did you bother to consider the cost of malpractice insurance to keep ignorant buffoons like you from suing them blind? Office leases? Employees? Accountants and other agencies to keep track of their paperwork? The cost of specialized medical equipment? You think these things just magically form from colliding electrons in every doctor's office? What about the cost of living, eating, driving, and everything else? They can't pay off those loans any faster than an accountant or engineer can pay off 60k in loans. All of this while fighting with Medicare/insurance/whiny idiots that don't want to pay what they owe. Ever pay enough attention to what a doctor bills for and what is actually collected? $200 bills paid at $65? $3000 bills paid for less than $1000? Did you even bother to consider that the Dr may have done some reviewing/researching of your file before he came to see you? How do you get through life being so ignorant? Oh, I see. You read doctor forums. Brilliant.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • WhatNow

      They have other expenses beside their time. They have an office with overhead, staff, and supplies. Then there is the cost of malpractice insurance. Really, healthcare reform is the answer to much of this problem.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
    • Richard - health care consultant

      I'm not going to argue if physicians are over or underpaid. Some make too much, some make way less than they are worth (PCP, academia). However, I must reply to Jill's post about physician billing. Physicians only take home a tiny fraction of the money from the bill they send you. Just to put everything in perspective, guess how much it cost to use this common surgical device ONCE during surgery http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94k0lPr0MU0? It costs ~$1000. That $1000 shows up on the bill, but is not profit for the physician. To take an overall perspective physician pay accounts for ~10% of overall healthcare expenditures http://www.jacksonhealthcare.com/media-room/press-releases/md-salaries-as-percent-of-costs.aspx. So even if physicians worked for free, the cost of medical care in the US would still be the most expensive in the world.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
  2. se

    Really? cry me a river!

    May 1, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alan S

      Se: I agree with you. As to this article: a comedian/doctor describes a situation that is unfair (a situation that he may have made up), and based on that one story, we're supposed to agree that doctors are underpaid and abused. Wow.

      If doctors are so grossly underpaid, how is it that American health care costs are skyrocketing, and most people are at risk of being uninsured? Oh! Maybe it's those darned nurses ripping off the system! Surely not the underpaid and underappreciated doctors.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
    • just saying

      Alan S: you think doctors are the only one's in the healthcare business? pharma, nursing homes, home medical equipment all contribute to the increasing costs. Oh ya, don't forget about thos hospitals that are buying up private practices and turning the screws on their new employees to do more, charge more. by the way, go see how much a hospital charges for an xray and then compare it to how much a doctor might charge for it in their office. SPOILER ALERT: waaay more than doctor's offices.

      bottom line is the alarming rate of increasing healthcare costs are not exclusively due to physician salaries.

      May 7, 2012 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
  3. jill

    Some Dr's are over paid, however; I personally always thank my Dr's for everything they do for me and pay them when my bills come in that my insurance does not cover. I think Dr's really need to be appreciated more. They have stressful lives like us and do put in more hours than most people.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      My experience is that Drs. treat patience like an assembly line. Schedule for office visits every 10-15 minutes. If you are late for an apt. they will often cancel it but they have no problem making you wait 30 minutes to an hour past your appointment time to see them. The nurse takes all your vitals and when you finally do see the Dr., he is in and out in 5-10 minutes. And for that, your insurance is billed $150 or more, depending on the Dr. Oh, and that is just so you can get a refill on a medication that you have been taking for years.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • just saying

      and you will never hear a doctor complaining to a patient about all the work they do.

      May 7, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  4. Danielle

    This is so true. There seems to be no appreciation for what doctors do and the amount of work it requires to provide adequate care. Its doctors that save lives not the NFL or NBA player.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Unfortunatly, they don't always do such a great job. My wife has been suffereing from headaches for over 3 years. Every day... some days so bad and can't get out of bed. She has had 3 primary care Drs, 2 neuroligists, a cardiologist, and and ENT... NONE of them can find an explantion for her pain.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Bob, I think you give her the headache!
      Doctors try to get people to make lifestyle changes but people won't change.
      They just want a pill for everything!

      May 1, 2012 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
  5. Ryan

    As far as athletes are concerned, their careers are nowhere as long as a typical doctor's. And a doctor's salary can soar through the roof the longer they are in practice, all the while more of their initial responsibilities get passed off to PA's, nurses, etc.

    With healthcare costs on the rise, this might not be the best time to complain about salary. Yes, there are Daves, but there are countless more people that pay what they can (and usually can't afford) in exchange for what many feel is inadequate, and arguably ineffective, healthcare. The more healthcare costs rise, the more these doctors are in danger of being subject to government caps on wages and costs. Then we all lose.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ryan

      I would like to clarify that I believe the current healthcare problem is a two-sided coin, with obesity rates in America skyrocketing, thereby adding to increasing occurrences of preventable ailments. That is most assuredly not the doctors' fault.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
    • Not Dave

      Even if "Dave" did that, do you believe the money was "stolen" from the doctor? Seriously? The doctor will now bill the patient, with 1.5 percent interest on the total due.

      :::MUTED:::

      May 1, 2012 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
  6. James the elder

    Yeah so what. I'm underpaid too. And I don't anyone who isn't.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Eleanor

    "Medicine is also the only profession where its members are required to sometimes work for free."

    Nope–as a university science professor, I have an academic year contract (August-April) but I'm still required to work in my lab all summer doing research and supervising students, for no pay.

    I also have a Ph.D., as much post-graduate education as an M.D., and my starting salary as a tenure-track professor at a state university was $44,000.

    So, while I sympathize with many physicians (especially primary care), you're definitely not alone...

    May 1, 2012 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Really?

      Sounds like you are taking for granted having a lab to work on your research in.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      Not quite correct, Elenor. You can quit that job and go elsewhere where you do not work for free.....ever. Not so as a physician. When working in or covering the ER, a physician is subject to EMTALA. The law states a physician will provide emergency care to an ER patient, regardless of their ability to pay. If you violate this law, you (the physician) can be fined up to $50,000 PER INCIDENT (do it twice in one night.....$100,000). By law, physicians are required to work for free. No other profession can say the same.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • A PhD and you can't figure it out?

      You don't get paid during the summer because you opted to have your pay structured that way. You should have taken the 12 months pay for smaller paychecks if you didn't want to go all summer without a check.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      That's right TJ. Its difficult treating the malinger who you know is there for a place to stay or drug seeking and wasting tax payer money since they have no insurance.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
  8. jill

    Some examples

    Urology Salaries
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $261000 $358000 $619000

    Anesthesiology Salaries
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $207000 $311000 $651000

    OB-Gyn Salary Information
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $159000 $261000 $417000

    Endocrinology Physician Salaries
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $171000 $187000 $260000

    Salary Information for Emergency Mediciine Physician Jobs
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $192000 $216000 $295000

    Pediatrics Salary Information
    Lowest Reported Average Reported Highest Reported
    $135000 $175000 $271000

    May 1, 2012 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jill

      Looks pretty good to me. However; I am still a firm believer most Doctors work their butts off.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      Its these physicians you turn to when you need invasive surgery, your diabetes treated, when you give birth, when you come to the ER because you are having a stroke or heart attack, and the one who cares for the most important person in your life, your child.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • guest

      Everyone thinks they are over worked and underpaid. If I had a salary over $100K I would be living a frugal life untill I baid off any debts that got me there and then party because in 10 years that's $1,000,000.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      If it were up to me I would double every Dr.'s salary. Being a Dr. is the most noble profession I can think of. They sacrifice their youth studying to save our lives. They get little rest and have to deal with moron's like "Dave". Why aren't medical insurance company executive salaries even mentioned here? They get paid more than Dr.'s for implementing policies that deny benefits to patients.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  9. IM DOC

    I am a doctor of Internal Medicine. I provide high quality, evidence based medical care. I meet or exceed national guideline targets for multiple medical conditions. However, this takes time. I spend 45 minutes with a Preventive physical and 30 minutes with a newly diagnosed diabetic and other complicated patients. By doing this, I am compensated less than other doctors who see more patients in a day but do a significantly inferior job with their patients. I know this from experience. Health insurance companies do not pay doctors appropriately for the care given and up until recently , have not looked at quality of care given. Most health insurance companies only reimburse doctors about 40% of what is billed. The insurance companies primary goal as a publicly traded company is to make profits for their shareholders. Think of all the money that you pay for health insurance that is wasted= health insurance ceo pay in the millions of dollars, advertising, overhead, corporate profits. None of this money is spent on providing healthcare. Things are getting worse in the medical profession and it will continue to deteriorate. There is a doctor shortage and it will get worse in the near future. Just something to think about.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jill

      Doc, you are ABSOLUTELY correct. I look at what the Dr bills my insurance to what is actually paid out to them. Now the arguement comes in on the over charged bill from the Dr. Thats why the cap is put on by the insurance companies. Some of its ridiculous. I see a bill for 500.00 or so and insurance will pay like 24.00 ....that I dont get...I think the BIG business now days is in the insurance agencies. We need to look at them a whole lot more regarding the Health issues in this country.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:51 | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Thank you DOC for your quality of care!
      My daughter is currently in Med School. Just seeing what she is going through gave me a totally new appreciation for my doctors! Most people have no idea what medical school is like.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse |
    • Not Dave

      yeah, doc, you're right, but - and it's a BIG but - to accept any insurance, whether Medicare, Cigna, etc., you sign a contract with the company, knowing full-well exactly how much you will be paid. It's a contract - you agree to terms, they agree to pay. Then your practice sets rates and bills, then gripe. Either drop insurance acceptance and accept cash/credit only [yeah, that would work well, wouldn't it, or stop whining how your contract sucks.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      Exactly right, Doctor. The insurance industry is an enormous waste of money. People would be better off pooling their money in smaller groups or even self insuring for medical treatment, provided you guys charged fair/normal amounts.

      Problem is, your inflated billing (for those nasty insurance companies) is also passed on to people paying out of pocket to see if they'll fall for it. That's pretty low, if you ask me. There should be a "direct, self pay" rate and an insurance rate.

      May 1, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse |
  10. butwholio_wipe

    im worse than underpaid. im unemployed. excuse me for not crying a river

    May 1, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Betty White

      I'm sorry butwholio_wipe, is it the doctors fault that you're unemployed? I'm going out on a limbe here, but I would gather that you are more the type of person who just expects certain things, I'm making that assumption based off your screen name, butwholio_wipe??? seriously??? I work in a clinic with many doctors who yes I'm sure are very well compensated, but when are on the other side of things, the medical side, you see the hours that these men and women put into their work. The doctors I work closest to are those critical care doctors who are in the ICU's (intensive care unit) on the weekends and deal with the worst of the worst cases. Most of the times after seeing a full day's worth of patients the doctors I work with will then go to do their rounds at the hospital. For me being pregnant right now, when I do into labor I know I want to make sure I have a very knowledgable and yes well compensated doctor taking care of me and my baby. If that day comes when you are in a horrible accident I'm sure you'll want a knowledgable and well paid doctor making sure you get the best care you'd expect to receive. So for you to sit there and say boo-hoo I'm unemployed, well I'm sorry don't expect me to cry a river for you.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
  11. Dino

    doctors make plenty of money-they shouldn't be complaining.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr.nobody

      what about bankers, lawyers, plumbers, the president of the USA, the senators, politicians? who are u to say what a person is supposed to get paid?

      May 1, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • Not Dave

      whatever the market will bear, and apparently it will not bear fatter salaries for the majority of docs - those who are lazy, incompetent, and uncaring.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
  12. TJ

    Wow....it is enlightening to see how ignorant people outside the medical field really are when it comes to rendering an opinion on physicians' salaries. Lets take Paulm5545 who complains about a $275 bill from his GI doc for a 15 min office visit. Hmmm, where do I begin, Paulm5545? First off, a doc can charge whatever he/she wants; I can assure you nobody, not the insurance company and most certainly not the patient, are going to actually pay him what he billed. Most reimbursement is based off of Medicare reimbursement rates (private insurance use these as a guide for what they will pay). Your doc will see about $150 for said visit. With this money, he will have to pay his nurses, receptionist, rent/mortage on his office, pay for his medical equipment, pay for his (astronomical) malpractice insurance, pay a billing company to actually submit the bill (again and again) to the insurance company before he acutally receives the money. Then, and only then, with what is left, your doctor will get paid. Bottom line: NOT a ton of cash. Don't like how it works? Go see your lawyer the next time you are sick.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Danielle

      Thank you for clarifying this for the ignorant people out there

      May 1, 2012 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Thank you TJ, you clarified this very well.
      There is a real problem with people's perceptions on just how the healthcare system works.
      I'd like to see anyone of the people "Sounding off" and saying how apathetic they are give the best years of their lives to being educated in medicine, a field where the expected knowledge base is expanding exponentially, and every idiot with access to Wikipedia thinks they are more knowledgeable.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • NC

      Great post TJ.

      May 1, 2012 at 17:56 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      So... why doesn't the doctor just charge the patient $150 then? Why does he charge $275 and hope the patient falls for it?

      You guys are always trying to scam the self insured.

      May 1, 2012 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
  13. TJ

    You are welcome, Danielle. I have much more enlightenment to offer to all of the ingnorant people out there.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      Please learn to spell, so you don't look ignorant.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      He spells just fine Robert, please learn how to make an argument, so you don't look ignorant.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:03 | Report abuse |
  14. jdub

    I don't think Dr's are over or under paid personally. The argument about the amount of schooling does nothing for me either. PhD's have to do 4 years of undergrad, 5 years (minimum) of graduate school for a PhD, and then many times a post doc of a couple years. And after all this is complete? Perhaps a $70,000/yr job as a professor. It is very rare for a PhD after just as much if not more schooling than an MD to start making mid six figures so I can't feel sorry at all for any doctor complaining. Follow your passion and enjoy being paid to do what you love.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Danielle

      PhDs don't do residencies where you are on call 30 hrs straight saving peoples lives. I finished my PhD first before going off to medical school and finishing my residency. Grad school was much less stressful and I didn't have to worry if I accidentally killed a rat or mouse.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
    • matt

      dude you're missing a huge point, PhD receive stipends while in training, medical students do not. My PhD brother will get his degree debt free, I'll have over 100k of debt when I finish med school

      May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • drseth82

      Most PhDs are paid for during their post graduate work, and do not incur $200,000+ additional debt to what they may have from undergrad

      May 1, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
    • jdub

      No you are all missing the point. I would gladly incur a debt of 100k or more if I could make that kind of money per year but that's not the issue. My point is simply that using the argument of the amount of time in school doesn't work because people like me did just as much school and don't make half of what a dr does. The points of insurance, work hours and stress are all valid points and the reason why I didn't say dr's are overpaid.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
    • Dos

      The point of the professor is that it will take much much much longer to pay off any debt that has accrued (and those who went to undergrad, for example, may well have some loans out, even if they did, as is sometimes possible, receive a stipend during graduate school). If my income in grad school was $12,000 a year, and my income after grad school is going to start around 50k, how long does it take the MD to surpass my PhD income? 2 years? If MDs didn't have to buy status vehicles and squander their money in other ways, they'd be killing it. As it is, there are those who complain about their "low pay" while those of us who have been through as much and more education know full well that the decisions we make will have a dramatic impact on our future earning potential. Do I earn what I deserve? I think so. Maybe even a bit more than I deserve. But you'll never hear me complaining about what I make. Just complaining about others who complain about how much (or "little") they make!!!

      May 1, 2012 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  15. opiepaul

    The insurance companies are making the MOST money in the medical world.
    .

    May 1, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mike Rost

    I was standing outside speaking with my neighbor when a shock trauma helicopter flew overhead. He said he had flown in the helicopter and went on telling me how much the bill was. I asked him, did you need to fly in the helicopter? He said yes. Then I asked him if it saved his life, he said yes. That's when I asked if the $8,000 bill was reasonable considering it saved his life, he shut up.
    If you are. Complaining on how much a doctor makes, let's see you do it. Go to 4 years of medschool and then the fun of residency to wake up at 2 am to deal with a drunk patient. The professional athlete gets paid for their muscle, doctors should be paid for their brain power. Let's see you do it.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kdawg

      Firefighters might save your life too, but they don't make that kind of money.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • asimj

      Most doctors do not provide any useful service. they don't care about the patients.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
  17. JSS

    The mistake here is the insurance company sending the check to the patient. What a horribly short-sighted policy.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kdawg

      Pretty amazing

      May 1, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
  18. kdawg

    Umm, let's look at PhDs (a field I know well). They spend an average of 5-8 years in school then nowadays another 3-8 years as a posdoc and their final university salary: 45-60K a year starting. Maybe 90K in the heath sciences. It's rare to see someone with a PhD get their "starting" job before 30, much less 35. They have less debt, but make WAY less money. As for other fields, lawyers etc also have lots of debt and don't come near what doctors make.

    Tell you what- why don't we have the government subsidize med school, but then put a nice cap on salaries for doctors (in Europe they make way less and plenty of people still want to go to med school). I'm pretty sure we'll save money in the long run... maybe even find doctors that choose the profession for the job and not the money.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TJ

      good luck with that.

      May 1, 2012 at 11:58 | Report abuse |
    • Dos

      I do like that last bit about "choose the job not the money" – might make a whole world of difference, and we'd end up with a lot fewer tools as doctors.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Sawber

      You are making poor assumptions. First, you assume the only thing you can do with a PhD is teach. In some fields, that may be true. So don't get a PhD in that field. Duh.

      Second, a PhD does command higher pay. I started my current job at well over $100K only because I have a PhD. I work 40 hours a week and don't have to deal with malpractice, whiny patients or insurance companies. I didn't have to do post-doc work (if you a good, you don't) or do an internship.

      I enjoyed teaching and would have liked to stay in academia. But it didn't pay enough. So I went into industry. Doctors don't have that freedom because the gov't and insurance companies usually dictate what they make.

      So yea, despite your whining about what us PhDs make, considering all of the risks and additional training doctors have to deal with, they deserve better pay.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  19. Daniel

    The average attorney does not make 130+. That amount is made only by attorneys at top firms or "white shoe" firms who share with others what they make. Other attorneys are ashamed to admit they only make 40-50K with a 200K debt. Attorneys are like any other commodity, they flooded the market and now you can get one for dirt cheap. In NYC, corporate paralegals and secretaries now make more than attorneys. That is why so many are leaving the profession or suing their law schools for selling them a lie.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Guest

    Dont like the pay don't be a doctor. No one force you to be a doctor. If a minimum of $150000 a year isn't enough to survive on you need to learn to budget.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TJ

      Ditto to all the whiners on this site about PhD's, firefighters, unemployed (really?) not making enough money. Become a professional athelete or movie start and stop crying.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • Dr.nobody

      ultimately – no matter what anyone says – it will be the law of supply and demand – if conditions worsen people – dont complain that there wasnt a doc available – dont complain – "i had to wait 6 hrs at the doctors office" – " my dad died in the er" – " it took them 4 months to do something about my cancer". it will sort itself out.

      i am an oncologist – went from a very busy academic/private lifestyle to the Veterans hospital where my life is great – pay not so great but i am happy – no worries. all the doctors reading this – not a lot of people appreciate what we do – go to australia or come to the veterans medical system.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
    • Rex

      How about this: don't like the fee the doctor charges, then take out your own appendix, or gallbladder, or colon. Good luck.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
    • Reason

      Medical malpractice insurance that costs $100,000 per year for OB/GYN doctors. I guess that doesn't matter to you.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
  21. Sagebrush Shorty

    Many family practice physicians actually lose money on Medicare/Medicaid patients.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. joseph

    our pay is relative. we spend our twenties and early thirties learning and practicing and being paid less than minimum wage...money is relative when compared to what we had to sacrifice from college to graduating from residency...we earn it and we are proud of it. unfortunately, Mr. Obama and politicians will take away half of my hard earned income subsidizing social class warfare efforts.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charles Darwin

      I don't believe you are a doctor. Every doctor I know has at least a fourth grade understanding of math. And knows that 30% does not equal "half."

      May 1, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
  23. jill

    'Cheap is not good-and good in not Cheap'....I want the best Doctors taking care of me and I appreciate them at least my Drs they rock. You treat them right they take better care of you. We all blame Dr.s when we got to pay out but hey.....keep your cash and surf the net for the answers and see where that gets you. HAHA...sorry, so many professions are over paid. Dr's maybe maybe not.....but its the insurance co red tape government control stuff. Get out and vote people and make changes. Just remember not to vote with your pocket book but for what your really looking for as a priority. Careful what you wish for.

    May 1, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. bobincal

    "Physician compensation is tightly controlled by the government and insurance companies"? It might be true that insurance companies hava a max they will pay for a procedure, I don't see how the US Govt can limit the number of procedures a doctor can perform. In fact, I have nephew who seems to want to concentrate on those procedures that require the least amount of time. Of course, he has huge debts from medical school.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. CarbonCopy

    "Not once did Dave thank Dr. Peterson for his care."

    You know what? Being a doctor is a service profession; you serve your patients. Just like the cook at your favorite restaurant and the barista in the hospital lobby. Get over yourself.

    "Instead, Dave took more than $3,000 from him." and “I figured you’re a rich doctor. I need the money more than you.”

    I agree with the guy's sentiment, but not the way in which he did it. What he did is insurance fraud, and the doctor in question has every right to pursue him legally (or at least report him to his insurance provider).

    Are doctors overpaid? Hell yes. I'm sorry, but $156,000 annually is THREE TIMES more than many of a similar level of education can hope to make.

    Doctors in this country need a reality check.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sawber

      The fact that you clearly do not thank your servers at restaurants confirms you completely suck as a person.

      May 1, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • DocSWS

      Get over ourselves? I'd like you to name another profession that has a 'similar' amount of education required. It is people like yourself that drive the cost of insurance and medical malpractice insurance to outrageous costs. If I am just like a cook, the next time I 'over-cook' a baby I should just have my manager go to the table and apologize, offer a free dessert. We're sorry that your newborn has multiple malformations, but here is a free pap smear to make you happy! Give me a break.

      May 22, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
  26. Genericman

    This just in, 99% of everyone wants a larger paycheck.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Renait

      No. 99% want a fair paycheck, but they'll settle for ANY PAYCHECK AT ALL.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
  27. snowdogg

    "primary care physicians"

    Probably are underpaid... that is why so many doctors want to "specialize"

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Wyatt

    Seriously? Doctors say they're underpaid?
    http://www.hark.com/clips/ytdbqnwwxh-snort-laugh-1

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. eric

    try being a teacher or social worker....

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr.nobody

      talk after being a doctor

      May 1, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      Try saving people's lives or treating their chronic illnesses that have no cure.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
    • John

      I know your degree in education was extremely challenging. Tell me about how you learned to color and made arts and crafts.

      May 1, 2012 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  30. Renait

    I am probably in the minority, thinking that doctors, overall, are not overpaid. Considering that they have huge education costs and REQUIRED malpractice insurance that can run into the hundreds of thousands per year, I don't know how some of them do it. On the other hand, some of their problems are their own doing. They are on the front lines and have been in a position all along to see how the insurance companies gradually became parasites on every level of the health care world. Doctors over the years have told me what unconsionable destruction insurance companies were wreaking on health care in this country. And yet there has never been an organized protest by doctors that I'm aware of. Never any statements of condemnation. Never any united, vocal, public criticism. So. You sat by quietly while the boat filled with water. Don't be so shocked when it sinks.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jen

    Doctors have to carry $200K+ malpractice insurance to EVERY year in addition to their student loan debt of $200K+. They cannot refuse care and an uninsured patient can turn around and not only not pay but sue them.

    Don't you think they deserve to make closer to bankers and professional athletes?

    May 1, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JMPelland

      We're not talking about how much they charge for their services, we're talking about their takehome salary. A doctor doesn't pay the 200k malpractice insurance out of their own 200-300k salary. There's a difference between business overhead and personal income – the argument being made is that their personal income should be higher and the evidence being cited in support of that case is 1) student loand debt and 2) comparative salaries in other professions. Neither of those stand, in my opinion, as evidence that a doctor should be making significantly more than $200,000. How much money is too much money for one person? Does anyone really need a million dollars a year? What's wrong with this country.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • 45 Apps_Admin

      Okay so let's do the math – you're saying that doctors are trying to pay off a $200K school loan making between 150-350K a year. Their malpractice insurance costs are paid through their gross revenue and do not come from their personal salaries. Meanwhile the average person graduates with 50-100K in school loans and if they're lucky find work making 40-50K a year. Hmm, since anyone can be sued for anything by anyone it looks like a pretty level playing field to me.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
  32. Tim

    ha, try being a teacher and receive teacher pay.....

    May 1, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. JMPelland

    Really? You're going to use Lawyers and Computer Systems Managers as a comparison to justify whether or not doctors deserve more money? You think $150,000 per year seen in these industries is a comparative analysis?

    How about architects? I went to school for 7 years, graduated with a Masters degree, and now have to spend a total of 3 years logging work hours before I can qualify to apply for a license and become a registered architect. And that's not even counting the year or two I'll have to spend taking 7 exams (and retaking them, which most people have to do at least once).

    By the end of it all, architects have spent approximately 10-12 years working towards their professional licensure – an equivalent experience to what you're claiming Doctors have to go through – and what do they get? A base salary of $60,000/year if they're lucky. Do doctors deserve to get paid more? That's not for me to say. But if you're going to use similar professions in a comparative analysis, use them all. Not just the ones that make your case look good.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. badley

    I believe that Doctors who got in the profession to get Rich make the worst doctors, you cant deny they have a good life and draw better than average salaries, but Doctors take an oath to help people and the BEST doctors do it for the love of humanity and caring for people not the almighty $.$$. If they want to be filthy rich and only care about themselves they should ahve become a Poltician.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Bobby

    Good morning,
    I don’t post often on CNN but this article rubbed me the wrong way, so I have decided to voice my opinion on this subject. I am in the U.S. Navy, and I work more than 65 hours a week for 7-9 months at a time while deployed, and I make pennies compared to most Doctors. I realize I don't save the lives of people the way a Doctor does, but I help defend the country on a daily basis. I did volunteer to serve, and that was my choice. I always thank any Doctor if he/she takes care of me period. This article puts out many income figures. If I read the article correctly it stated that on the High end an orthopedic surgeon makes about $315,000 annually, and on the low end orthopedic surgeons clear about $156,000. If you average both salaries together you get an average annual salary of $235,500.I also know that it takes a lot of time to finish medical school, and that medical school is extremely difficult. When someone graduates from Medical school they will usually have enormous student loan bills. Based on the average salary of Doctors they get paid plenty. While they do have a lot of responsibility I think they are fairly compensated monetarily for what they do. Thank you and have a nice day.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Codpiece Jim

      Your employment requires less cerebral prowess and personal characteristics necessary to provide optimal safe care than a physician. In essence, you're more easily replaced. That's why you get paid less. Stop complaining.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
  36. jw

    Im grateful for doctors. They are a gift to all of us.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Brent

    Anyone who thinks doctors are overpaid is welcome to go to medical school and take advantage of the system themselves. As someone who has done it I can say that being a doctor is the most difficult, time consuming and stressful way to earn $200k per year that I can imagine. As far as what we spend on doctors as a society, consider this: about 20% of our healthcare dollars go to doctors. 80% goes to hospitals, supplies companies, drug companies, administrators, nurses and, of course, insurance companies.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Justen

    Doctors are under paid??!! Look at people that do real work thats more stressful and difficult than sewin up a few cuts. Take loggers for example. The ones that still use chainsaws. That gives a 36 year old man the body of a 58 year old office worker. And theyre lucky they even make money. One week they can make about $800. And the next week they could be lucky to get $20. So doctors shouldnt complain about bein underpaid. Take the people that actualy earn their money into consideration befor you say anythin about bein underpaid

    May 1, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Danielle

      These people's jobs are physically draining but a physician's job is mentally draining and working 80 hrs a week can be physically draining as well.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
  39. annoyed

    This article is so fraught with biased inaccuracies, it's ridiculous. First of all, many professions (legal comes to mind) have requirements that professionals assist indigent populations; in fact, judges can order it with no compensation to be paid. Secondly, if you (or any other physician for that matter) had any idea how to run a financial analysis, you'd find that the 1-2 extra grad school years and 4-8 residency years or earning little or no income are more than made up for over the course of a 30 year career. Finally, the most offensively ignorant thing you said is that the government and insurance companies tightly control compensation? No, they don't. They control your REVENUE which is not your income. If you don't like it, put up a shingle, go fee-for-service and pay yourselves whatever you want. What's that? No one will pay? No one can afford it? You can't live without your precious Medicare and insurance company reimbursement? Why not? Because you have to compete on price like every other professional in the U.S.? Why don't you go fee-for-service and deal with credit card chargebacks, unpaid bills and all other normal business and income-related realities before you complain about how your paychecks in your economically-protected (and therefore artificial) world are deficient.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Marcccoraty

    There is a ton of work and hell to go through to matriculate into and then complete medical then don't forget residency. Compared to other professions medicine takes much more work and debt is accrued at a higher rate. Some Dr.'s saleries are way too high but most are too low.
    Med student

    May 1, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. tkindsm

    If you don't pay people who do hard jobs well who in the heck is going to do those jobs in the future? The guy who went to school and studied hard for all those years should get teh benifits of a higher paycheck later in life. This Dave guy sounds like a real tool, i hope they sued him and got their money.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. P.R.

    The way things are going, smart people will not enter medicine in the same numbers in the future. We will have more shortages of doctors and will have to start going to nurses and P.A.'s and accept lower quality of care as a result. You need to pay top dollar to get top people when you live in a free capitalist society. My spouse is a doctor and with all the great opportunities in this country, I seriously doubt that if any of our kids get top grades, that they will go into medicine.....

    May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • badley

      I disagree, if money is the only reason an individual gets into medicine all we will have is Con men and Selfish doctors, they make good money already! I will agian say the best Doctors are in it for the Love of Humanity and care for fellow human beings...not the almighty $.$$, thats why yoou see many donating unslefish doctors donating there time to kids/adults that cannot afford care.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
    • Codpiece Jim

      Badley is misinformed. Doctors are not saints. They are people who expect to be paid fairly for their knowledge and effort. If you cut the pay you won't weed out the con men, no, you'll weed out the intelligent skilled people. I hope you like Dr. Nurse Asshat who has an IQ of 102 and 2 years of distance medical training doing your heart surgery.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
  43. Scott

    I would have to say that I think that greed fuels much debate over pay scales. If we look at professional athletes, they are paid to play a game in which many of us would be more than happy to play for the rest of our lives for much less than they are currently making. We all know that this is an unfair pay scale for them and it is nothing but greed.

    I would also like to point out that teachers, the ones who educate the doctors, make barely enough to even compare to the doctors. If anyone should be complaining it is the teachers. We all choose what profession we would like to pursue and we all know how much we will possibly be making in the pursuit. You choose your profession and you choose your job, just be happy with your life and your family and stop worrying so much about your pay scale.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. B

    One fact that was not mentioned is the astronomical malpractice insurance, and the threat to be sued (or stiffed) from any case that you have.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. opeliza

    As it alludes to in the article..football, basketball, and baseball stars make MILLIONS (and I'll add: for playing a little boy's GAME)... I'll also add that film stars are another "profession" (?) that is grossly overpaid- 20 million per film for some of them-come ON!! A doctor will put his/her hand inside your chest to make your heart beat when you need it. They can SAVE YOUR LIFE!!! Doctors spend upwards of 14 years being educated to do what they do and have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege. It's been shown that basketball players that are recruited right out of high school can't handle the money they're given with their 12th grade education. Doctors make too much???? Me thinks they make no where near enough! And just so you know....I am not a doctor, I am a nurse.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Random

    You don't have to be a doctor if you don't want to be...if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Unless I'm totally mistaken and people have become doctors "by accident".

    May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Matt

    I had a kidney stone removed with the sound treatment. No cutting, but I was put under. It took the doctor about 45 mins to do in his clinic. It cost $20,000. I think the only word for that is immoral. My wife is from Europe. The quality of the doctors there is every bit is good as here, but care costs about 1/2 to 2/3 as much. The way most doctors overbook to make extra money and then make sick patients wait in their wating rooms for hours is, well, immoral.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Codpiece Jim

      Blame the insurance companies, not the doctors.

      We also live in a capitalist society, unlike Europes socialist model. Stop comparing us to them. If you don't like the care here, go to Europe.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  48. RandiRN

    I am sorry, but please don't cry for doctors. Some might be underpaid, but some cheat the system. The newspapers are full of stories about physicians who commit Medicare and Medicaid fraud stealing millions of dollars from a program for those who need the help. The insurance companies, please don't get me started. As by my screen name it maybe obvious I am an RN. When I worked in a hospital a doctor told me he had to see another physician's patients when they were admitted to the hospital; but because the attending physician didn't participate with the other doc's insurance, his claims were denied. Why didn't the other doctor see his own patients in the hospital? The patients' doctors had no admitting privileges. This gentleman who was very nice and provided high quality care went unpaid. This was wrong!! The system is broken, as Americans we seem to value the ability to hit a ball with a wooden stick, or putting an orange ball thru a hoop more then those who better society. The healthcare system seems to put value on the wring things. We treat when illness happens, instead of preventing the illness in the first place. As a culture we need to begin evaluating our priorities and begin to change how healthcare is delivered. Maybe once we begin preventing illness the system will become less expensive. We need to stop healthcare fraud.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. LostinSLC

    "Dave" is a crook.....it was his fault for getting hurt and then expected for his doctor to do what he did for free. Pretty pathetic

    May 1, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Ryan

    An NBA player getting paid too much does not mean a doctor doesn't get paid enough. That is a logical fallacy. What it does mean is that an NBA player gets paid too much. Being cheated or stolen from does not mean someone doesn't get paid enough- the example of "Dave" proves that "Dave" is a thief, not that his doctor is underpaid. Have whatever opinion you want about doctors pay rates, but please use relevant and valid imformation, not fallacies and misdirection.

    May 1, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.