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 (15,183 Responses)
  1. dbw

    Hmmm, $5 million to play basketball. I could do that. Sign me up.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GeniusLogic

      Give me a break. Pro sports is the most difficult career to succeed in, and in many cases you have to be born with the right genes to even have a chance.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • Sandy Lazar-Bergstrom

      I agree physicians work very hard and often times are under-appreciated, however I do not think they should be treated like Gods. I have been an RN for 37 years and I think I can speak to the issue of being under-rated and under-paid!
      I would like to see the day of "professional courtesy" return,with regard to office billing. It's the Critical Care Nurse that truly keeps the patient alive in the middle of the night. You'd better pray that you have a highly trained and skilled nurse at your bedside or it won't matter what kind of doctor you have!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
    • ramicio

      Sports are an area where you don't have to work in life. You are given a gift and it takes you to the top. People shouldn't get paid insane amounts of money for a genetic talent. They also do nothing in life but have fun. Pro sports athletes are just overgrown children.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • JoeyE

      oh please! pro players shouldn't paid more than million dollars a year.. it should be salary cap for every pro players to earn less than 100k a year which is good idea! our US president earns 400k a year and Obama has to WORRY about our country and to concern of our country from any enemy, what do pro sports do to us in United States? same for movie actors/actress, they should get paid less than 100k!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Sandy Lazar-Bergstrom
      RNs always have a chip on their shoulder. They think they know more than the doctor and should get paid like them. Never mind their lack of medical school. You are a NURSE get over it.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • GeniusLogic

      Yea..sure pay the pro players 1 million a year and let the owner and the rich family he was born into become richer and more powerful. The players are the main draw in sports, that's why they have bargaining power and powerful unions.

      May 1, 2012 at 16:51 | Report abuse |
  2. Cabrini

    Well I have a PhD in chemistry and I am only earning 37K. That is after 4 years for B.S. degree and 6 years for PhD plus 2 years post doc training. If I ever earn 150K I would be ecstatic but that may never happen. The good news is I do research and teach because I love it. I worked 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week during grad school because I want to make a difference in the world of science, not for monetary gain

    May 1, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • volkan

      Well-put and I agree. More professionals, teachers, still need to have highe incomes.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • GoodForYou

      But this is an article about doctors not Ph.D's of the physical sciences.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • ChadJ

      I have a PHD in Physics. With a double major in Math and Physics as an undergrad I spent 5 years in college as an undergrad. I spent 2 years as a Master's student in Physics. I then spent 6 more years as a PHD student (by no means an unheard of amount of time for a degree in physics-though mine was partly due to my PHD advisor moving to another university). In case you aren't counting that is 13 years in school. I am now finishing up my first post doc, and will likely have to do one or two more before even being considered for a staff position someone. I make well less than $150,000, I also make less than what they are making after taxes and student loan payments.

      My understanding is that most of the medical doctors that are having a tough time are having problems because they are trying to be self employed in their own small little practice (with one or two other doctors). These small practices have to hire people to do all of the paper work for billing and the like. Also, they have to buy all of their own equipment. If they would instead join a larger practice then the cost of a billing and equipment would be spread out over a larger number of doctors.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • GoodForYou

      For someone with so much scientific training you'd think you'd have a knowledge of statistics and at least look a few up for doctors. On average doctor's make less at hospitals than at private practices. Hospitals take quite a cut out of a doctor's check and unless you're highly specialized you can be replaced if you ask for fair pay. Though this isn't true of all hospitals, it's pretty common.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
    • V. L.

      Sorry for the tangent. But 37K for a PhD? Where do you live? In NJ you'd be making at least 80K to 120K "minimum" based on the industry you work in. I only have a B.S. in Food Science and I make a 100K... hmmm - just curious 🙂 Best of Luck!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  3. ziggychk

    I think most people who are responding on this board are looking at the quoted $150K and ignoring the rest of the article. Doctors spend 10+ years training (including ungergrad and med school) before they are fully qualified doctors and at that point, they have huge student loans. Coupled with the fact that they work all hours and insurance companies continue to cut their payments, along with the overhead that they have to pay including payroll, malpractice insurance etc., etc., that $150K works out to very little when you break it down to an hourly rate for all that they do.

    So for all of you complaining about how much doctors make, would you rather see these people exit the system and find jobs doing something else, or move to different country to practice? This would result in less doctors and specialists available and a long waiting periods before you can get in to see a doctor. Is that a better solution?

    Just because you are not making $150K doesn't mean that you should bag on the whole profession. If you think you should make that much, you should educate yourself so that you can have a career making this much. It goes both ways.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GeniusLogic

      Exactly, if middle managers that may not even have gone to grad school are pulling in $400k+ for playing politics, Drs. should be making 600k+ or 800k+ if they are working full time, doing surgeries, treating cancer, etc.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • kanjaji

      Makes me weep! I recently was referred by my GP to a urologist to review a blood test showing an elevated PSA (prostate). I spent exactly 4 minutes with the doc (yes, I timed it), he told me the level was in normal range for my age but a little high, and charged me $350. No joke! I told him I refused to pay such an exhorbitant amount for 4 minutes of his time and he 'kindly' dropped the charge to $150. I have no sympathy for them.

      Oh, and the blood test? The hospital charged me over $500 for what I later learned could have been done at a local lab for $20. When I complained they dropped it to $250. How very generous of them. Again, no sympathy for these blood suckers.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • dave

      To kanjaji:

      Hospitals charge a lot because ALL HOSPITALS are required to cover patients who don't have insurance or are illegals especially when they are in critical conditions (ER/ICU). So they pass the cost to patients who can pay or else they risk closing.

      In your case, you'd be SOL because there wouldn't be any hospitals to treat you or even tell you that things are ok. Consider your self lucky that things were ok...

      May 1, 2012 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • AlZee

      If you think doctors make too much, then all the blood sucking lawyers who charge $400 hr and the Wall street folks and bankers, and the real estate developed theifs are grossly overpaid. It is sick , that as a society, we are complaining about the one proofession that makes the biggest and most direct impact on our well being. Shame on all you. and Shame on CNN..when have you done a piece on the salary of sumbag attorneys or the high flying wall street bankers and option traders etc. Why dont you write an expose on those "professionals"?
      and please dont balme Healtcare cost entirely on the doctors.. or Obamacare. Look real hard and deep at the managed care insurance companies, the pharma companies before pointing figers at doctors.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
    • Joe M.

      kanjaji – Yet I bet you would be the first person to sue the doctor if the slightest thing went wrong, even if it was clearly not the doctor's fault. Look no further than the mirror for why medical costs have exploded. You want to pay nothing while being able to sue for everything. Also, blame the government for setting Medicaid compensation for routine check-ups at ridiculously low rates like $30 for why doctors have to charge higher fees to everyone else. The $30 doesn't even come close to covering operating costs involved in that check-up, let alone leave room for profit.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:48 | Report abuse |
  4. gojiman

    The nerve of these doctors complaining about the fact that they are underpaid when in fact over in England and Canada and other countries that have universal healthcare or controlled by the government and what these doctors can get paid while over here that is not the case for that very reason. You can count the United States and make three times as much as anywhere else in the world why because there was no control over how much the Dr. can get paid. As far as I'm concerned with the healthcare system be in the mess that is and the fact that everything is ridiculously high medically I think that these doctors who whine about not getting paid enough sure appreciate these other countries will actually help people without putting a $in front of the health of people.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Avery Buchholz

      In England people may go into medical school without a 4yr college degree. Medical school is free so they don't come out in debt. Residents hours are limited to 40/wk as opposed to 80+ here. Doctors salaries are limited but so are there hours in the hospital. Residents are also paid more. That 200k debt you finish medical with quickly becomes 400K by the time residency is done since you can't afford the 2k a month payment on a resident salary. Kind of a difficult comparison your making...

      May 1, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • bill

      Doctors in England and any other country but the US..the education is paid by the goverment..NO STUDENT LOANS..free education means you have less to payoff when you are in practice. Remember, people aren't flocking to England or any other country..they are coming here for the best care in the world. You get what you pay for..

      May 1, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • KG

      It is easy to say that in other countries doctors do their job for the patients. They are also not sitting on 250,000 dollars worth of debt. They also do not train for 14+ years, most of that time incurring debt. Many of the doctors I know (and there are many that I know) are making very little at the end of the day. Most people spend their twenties working (NOT incurring debt) and most people do not work more than 80 hours a week regularly. Perhaps find out the situation before you speak.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • gabriel

      you are an idiot. the nerve? my father is a doctor and he was losing money at one point because the malpractice insurance was so high. LOSING money. how long would you stay at your job if you made no money? all the money you see being talked about for healthcare doesnt go to the doctors, it goes to the insurance companies. get the facts

      May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Avery

      For all of you bagging on physicians... next time you get sick or hurt, go to the animal ER and see a vet. Maybe youll appreciate your Dr's hard work to get to a place he can fix your unappreciative ass. And for whomever said soldiers are so mistreated... They SIGNED UP for it. I dont think anyone should get anything for picking a crappy job. Yeah I said it. Might not be the most popular response but its the facts. Maybe youve not had to listen to wives of enlisted men complaining about how bad they have it HERE AT HOME.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • TBD

      You're forgetting that in those countries the medical education of those doctors is heavily subsidized by the government. Sure, the doctors don't make as much, but there is also the fact that they are not in as much debt as the doctors in the US.

      Also, running a practice is not just about paying the doctors. Think about all of the other people that work in the practice. The nurses, the medical assistants, the scheduler, etc. On top of that, you have the overhead of just keeping the place open. Sure, the doctors make good money, but it's only commensurate on the amount of work that was put in to get to that point in their lives. On top of that, if there's a month that there aren't enough patients, or the insurance company is slow to pay out, guess where everyone's salaries comes from?

      If you're an engineer and make 60K a year coming out of college, the money that you set aside early is going to accrue way more interest than the money that a doctor finally starts to be able to put away after paying off loans. It's a long term economics. Sure, a lot of doctors do not necessarily invest properly, but that's more a result of poor financial planning.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Not only is the cost different. In those other countries, the doctor's are not paying the large sums of their annual income for malpractice insurance, etc. Lawsuits is what makes everything more expensive in this country. That is why the cost of living no matter what you get paid is more for all of us here.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
    • Joe M.

      gojiman – When was the last time you volunteered to do your job for free? That is, if you even have a job. Quit being envious of people simply because they are successful and you aren't. Somewhere along the line you made a choice that you didn't want to work hard and make money. You are now reaping the consequences of that decision. Live with it instead of trying to punish other people for your failures.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • Jim M

      I think you have also forgotten one of the key differences in the healthcare in those other countries. Controlled access to doctors and services.

      In England your primary care doctor is assigned to an area to cover and cannot take patients based on preference.
      In some cases people have literally moved a city block and had to find a new primary care doctor. You, as a patient, cannot select the best doctor for your needs or the doctor with the best reputation or skill set.

      In Canada, my grandmother needed and CT scan and had to wait for three months to get into a facility to get it done. In the meantime the aneurism in her head started to leak and she ended up having to have brain surgery. The procedure was performed by a surgeon fresh out of her residency and had never done this type of procedure before. We could not find another doctor (in a major border city with the US) because the number of physicians is controlled by the government. My grandmother died shortly after the procedure because the surgeon skipped a step in the repair of the aneurism. The doctor told us that she was sorry, and the hospital administrator said it was a “learning experience”. We were left with the lost of our family member and no ability to sue (thank you socialized medicine).

      Rich people from all around the world come to the US for their specialty treatments. Why? Because we have the best doctors. Why do we have the best doctors? Because they can make a good living by excelling at their craft and making people’s quality of life as good as possible. In my opinion you get what you pay for in all aspects of life, and doctors are no exception.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse |
    • Yoyo

      And now they're on strike...
      Keep the physicians happy .. it's in everyone's best interest.

      April 28, 2016 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  5. tony

    I believe, if you are a doctor then you should have had the calling. If not then you are in it for the money. Take a doctor in the military, he is not in it for the money, just ask the career medical doctor. last month, my son came to me after a fishing trip to show he stuck a fish hook in his arm. the doctor's bill was $1,000.00. it took him all of 10 minutes. If you are living above your means, then become a lawyer or a basketball player. i believe there should be a salary cap for phys.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • scarf

      I suspect the MEDICAL bill was $1000. The DOCTOR's bill was probably a small fraction of that, and insurance paid probably just one-third of that.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • New resident physician

      Have you considered what that $1000 goes toward? The physician is a small part of the equation, the others being maintenance/supply costs in the ER, administrative staff, nurses, and costs incurred by the non-insured who, by law, cannot be denied care.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • johnmd

      Tony, sorry about your bill, you should ask the ER to itemize the entire bill, I guarantee you that not even 50 dollars of th 1000 went to your doctor....the public thinks the doctor gets that amount, we really dont, most of that money is pocketed by the hospital and the administrators

      May 1, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • yes but

      while most of us docs are in it for the calling, you have no idea how much of ourselves we give away, day by day. a little piece here and there. if you disagree about compensation for doctors based on strictly by the numbers relative to value given (factoring , in for instance the $280K of med school debt I had;i was lucky not to have college loans; not starting practice till I was 36, the years of training) I think that is reasonable. but please get off your high horse about it. You really don't have a clue what is given.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • talpaiadului

      You imbecile, that was the hospital Emergency Room bill, the doctor who works there is paid by the hour. Way over 90% of healtcare costs do not go to physicians.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • JTG736

      One thing you don't realize is that alot of doctors go into the Service to get their education paid for as well as gaining experience as a doctor while not being liable for medical malpractice (Soldiers can't sue the U.S. gov't for getting the wrong leg amputated; sovereign immunity). Not to take away from their service, but we need to look at things realistically. Cap the doctor's salary and then you're going to get a lower caliber of doctors because they won't get what they deserve. I'd rather have an A+ doc who likes driving a Porsche operating on me as opposed to a C+ doc who's just doing it because it makes him feel good.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • tony

      no that was the doctor's bill, there was a mistake about the ins, so the bill was sent to be paid in full to the doctor. we arleady had the hospital bill seperate. so $1,000.00 for ten minutes is uncalled for. don't get me wrong, doctors are needed, the more the doctors get paid, the more the ins. charges. they work long hours saving lives, but so do oil rig workers, who provide energy as well as the mechanics who keep their mercedes running.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Maybe there should be a salary cap on what you do too Tony (what is that exactly), and maybe we should let the Doctors set it since you feel they should have one. Maybe we don't live in a free country anymore, as well.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
    • ScienceGuy

      @ new resident: Surely as a physician you know that the law only compels treatment of people with life-threatening immediate conditions, right? So the hospital could (and they routinely do) turn away kids with only fish hooks in them.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      Tony, I am not a physician, and I do think that some physicians are underpaid. But assuming your son did not go to a specialist to remove his fish hook, the $1,000 pays for more than just the doctor doing a simple procedure like removing a hook and putting on a band-aid. A doctor's office or hospital has to be run like any business with overhead. You're not just paying for what the doctor did. Whether or not it seems necessary to you, at a minimum, the fee would also go toward the nurse who may have checked in your son, and got him situated and assessed for the doctor; a portion of the cost of the building in which your son saw the doctor, the supplies that cleaned up the wound, etc, etc. And, yes, it pays for the expertise of the doctor who paid to be educated enough to recognize how to remove a fish hook and make sure there weren't any lasting repercussions. If the field of medicine were that easy, your son would have probably pulled it out himself – but clearly he was smart enough to know better and leave it to a professional.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
    • Mike_F

      As to the argument about doctors in the military not getting paid the same as doctors on the outside. Most doctors in the military signed up to have their student loans paid off over the period of enlistment, usually 8 years for most of them. They are required to go where ever the military sends them whether it be a regular base, ship, or a combat posting. Most of them start off as an 0-3 and work their way up in pay as they go along. Many of them stay in after thier required duty is over. Most of them that do not stay in are in the reserves for at least another 8 years as part of their student loan payback meaning that they may get called back to active duty in time of need.
      I know this from having talked to many of the doctors that were in the Navy with me when I was an enlisted man. Military doctors are not getting rich while they are on active duty. They do it because the cost of getting a medical education is so high that this is one way for them to get their students loans paid.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
    • ScienceGuy

      @JTG736: as long as the average physician easily makes more money than any other profession (and they do), reducing salary won't turn away the money-hungry from medicine. Sometimes misleading physicians like the author of this article will try to point to managers or other leaders like CEOs to offer "proof" of higher-earning physicians, but this is dishonest. CEO isn't a profession, it's the highest point of a certain professions. In order for the comparison to be valid, you would need to average the salary of all of the chief surgeons or chief radiologists (for example). Don't believe me? Google a list of highest-paid occupations, and various physicians will routinely be at the top.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • johnmd

      Tony, not true about military docs, most of them go into the military so they can get ALL their loans paid off rather quickly, plus after 20 years they get a full military pension which is based on their highest salary usually, so I dont think they all go into the military for service, also, you cant sue in the military so they can practice freely!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • AlZee

      the whole medical bill and its inflation is all thanks to the medical insurance companies and the games they play...if the doctors bill the right amount, the managed care company ALWAYS reimburses at a lower payout...so this has become a game, the doctors and hospitals have to bill at a higer rate to get reimbursed at a more resonable rate.

      as a patient, you see the doctors bill but you dont see what they actually get reimbursed, so before you compalin about the billing rate, get some education, or ask and learn how the sysyem works in this country.

      USA is the only place where healthcare insurace companies are unregulated and use such tactics...most other developed countires have some form of predomiantly universal healthcare.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  6. kingtak

    I am not sure one thing in the story: why the insurance send the $3200 check to Dave, not directly to Dr. Peterson? If the Dr. Peterson billed the insurance than insurance should issue the check to billing doctor not to the subscribing patient.
    Something is fishy here, not making sense at all.
    However, I agree that they are underpaid for the work that they do.
    $156000 for putting up with some IDIOT’s misery is not enough.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wayne

      Actually this happens a lot. I work at an EMS provider and often the insurance will send the check to the patient and they just spend it.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Medical providers that are "Out of Network" for a person's insurance plan are typically paid in this fashion. Nothing fishy here.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
    • Government physician

      The physician receives the check only if the insurance company "accepts assignment," i.e., accepts a patient-signed permission to pay the physician directly. The default is for the patient to pay the bill and be reimbursed by the insurance company.

      The situation the author described happened to me every time a patient refused to permit assignment. His reply was typical too. With price fixing by insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid/TriCare, ungrateful charity patients, and mounds and mounds of insurance forms ruining the profession I love, I said chuck it and quit private practice for a federal position. I make less, but I have no insurance hassles, no larcenous patients, and most importantly, I don't have to make payroll for my staff.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • crbrianb

      I've received a check in the mail from the insurance company before to pay for the doctor's bill. It is not uncommon.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • Trauma Doc

      This is not uncommon. If, as a physician, you happen to not be "in network" for a given patient, the insurance company not uncommonly sends the check to the patient (made out to him/her). Some honest patients immediately forward it to the doctor's office. Many others simply cash it. In essence, the doctor does the work and the patient gets paid for it.

      Happens to me and my partners frequently. It will never stop me from doing what I do. But it leads to a certain amount of cynicism. Especially when you treat all trauma patients the same, regardless of insurance status.

      I don't think I'm underpaid. I also don't think I'm overpaid. I provide a quality service and there's nothing wrong with expecting to get paid for some of it (at least 25% of my trauma care is free).

      May 1, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • kingTak

      Well, than I guess the article is not written correctly: instead of creating a “sorry” mood for doctors and “they get paid a lot” for non-doctor-idiots, perhaps he should be writing about insurance companies how they make the doctors to become a paper pushers and “beggars”. Something should be done about unethical insurance companies.

      May 1, 2012 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
  7. Thinks2010

    It' not the doctors who are being overpaid, it is the insurance companies. This country really needs to shift to a single payer plan that will eliminate all the overhead associated with insurance companies like advertising costs, grotesque top executive salaries and compensation, paying for squads of employees who sole activity is figuring out how to deny coverage to their plan members and processing reams of annoying and duplicative paperwork.

    A single payer plan would ensure that everyone is covered and that the doctors get paid. It would eliminate the greedy insurance companies and deadbeats like Dave.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Avery

      the insurance companies are the ones PAYING. its the facilities that are bending you over. Thankfully, my insurance pays 100% to 10k then i pay a grand. After that its on them again

      May 1, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    Anyone who has to spend vast amounts of their time dealing with insurance companies is underpaid.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Megha

    Are doctors overpaid? No. Are they underpaid? No. They work hard, have to take out huge amounts of debt, and spend several years training in order to be able to do what they do. And as someone with lifelong illnesses, I'm tremendously grateful. However, let's be realistic. There are several other careers and occupations out there far more deserving of a pay increase. Doctors save lives, but so do firefighters – and with substantially more risk involved. And who taught them all? Teachers and educators. I don't mind that doctors make a lot of money, but I don't want to hear them complain about how they need more.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. countetrans

    Compare Doctor salaries to that lawyers, politicians and wall street bankers. now which one will you trust your dying mother to? I thought so...

    May 1, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JonnyB

    Everyone thinks they are underpaid! If you don't like your job get another one. Man our generation is nothing, but a bunch of complainers!

    May 1, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. LouAZ

    Medical Doctors used to take the Hippocratic Oath . . . nowdays, theyt take the Hip Accountants Oath.
    (Remembered from a Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks comedy routine)

    May 1, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dude

      You have been watching too much TV.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  13. Traumasurgeon

    I am a trauma surgeon. I went to 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 9 years of surgical training. I work 100 hours per week (often at night and on the weekend as that is when most trauma happens). I make 250K/year. I have 110K of student loans. I rent an apartment. I drive a 12 year old car. I hardly get to see newborn son. I see death and tragety everyday. I do not get paid enough for all that. Find someone else to save your life and lives of those you care about.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LouAZ

      Sounds like you picked the wrong occupation. Don't complain . . . take it up with your High School and College Counselors.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • Traumasurgeon

      Just pay me what I deserve

      May 1, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • New resident physician

      And this is what I have to look forward to.... (anesthesia intern)

      Seriously, to anyone who thinks doctors earn too much, what's stopping you from becoming one? You could also be earning the same salary!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • LouAZ

      Seems you are paid what you "deserve". See "DUDE"'s comment below.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • Sorry

      Sorry but you shouldn't have become a surgeon then! I agree you should make a high salary and 250k to Start out is plenty (not sure how long you have actually been practicing) but doctors and surgeons should also do it because they love it, not for the money! If you are only in it for the money, big problems can arise!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
    • Habeed

      Let's suppose that you were paid double the money. $500k instead of $250k. What material difference would this make in your life? After loan payments and taxes, you still have more than enough takehome to buy a new car and a house as it stands.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • whiners

      Pay you what you deserve. You make 250 grand a year, quit whining. You are better off than 99% of all Americans and the entire globe. If you don't like it, quit. If you had the brains to become a doctor, maybe you should've gone to wall street instead if money is so important to you. I don't mind that you make 250 K, but you are clearly out of touch.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Government physician

      You forgot to mention something. Out of that $250K gross, you have to buy malpractice insurance. I was in a field with some of the lowest malpractice insurance rates of all. Plus, I have NEVER been sued. Even so, my annual premium was $36K. I presume a trauma surgeon's annual premium is in the $100-200K range, no?

      May 1, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
    • Traumasurgeon

      The courage of the noncombatants... words spoken by those who are not burdened by the memory of losing patients on the table.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • lynne

      Did you really think you would be living out an episode of ER? I respect you for what you do, but not what you are saying. I work 80 hours a week making 34K a year. I KNEW what my hours would be and I KNEW what I would be doing. I like what I do, and if you don't pick something else. I agree with some of the previous commenters – when you make a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS a year, who are you to whine about it? I get your job is hard, probably harder than mine, but then, you make in one year what I see in about 7-8 years.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
    • scarf

      I'm a pathologist, and I diagnose cancer everyday. I know many of those patients will die of their disease. Yet, I try to concentrate on the ones I was able to help get the right treatment who go on to live their lives. I make good money. (Not as much as some, since almost 75% of my practice is Medicaid.) Still, I take much of my reward from my work from the knowledge that I helped someone. You sound like you hate being a trauma surgeon. Trust me, if you don't like your job, no amount of money will make it tolerable. Find another speciality.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
  14. GeniusLogic

    Doctors ARE underpaid. They should make 600k+, especially if they are working 40+ hours a week and strange hours on call to have hospital privileges for certain specialties. Their levels of responsibility couldn't be higher and the room for error is zero. On top of that they have to be able to afford costly insurance. Also people need to stop complaining about pro athletes' salaries, if you have half a brain you can figure that one out – pro athlete careers are short, uncertain, and they are paid on value you can clearly measure, unlike the corporate world where value is difficult to accurately measure and sometimes political.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul F.

      "Their levels of responsibility couldn't be higher and the room for error is zero" Really? More than a soldier who is tasked with protecting that man in front, behind, and to each side. Please... these guys go of to war and make less than minimum wage but i guess you can justify that huh?

      May 1, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • Serious

      Serious?? So your telling me that Walmart has not helped millions of people afford food and clothing??? And for the record, I hate Walmart but facts are facts! Your logic fails!!!!

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

    I'm willing to bet that not a single one of you complainers here would survive 1 month in med school, let alone hack it as a doctor. Pathetic ranters who haven't embraced supply and demand because they can't supply anything someone else would demand.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Paul F.

    No body should complain about being underpaid when the people in the country are the leaset paid workers. They make well under minimum wage and at this current period of our lives they are in the most dangerous job. They get up well before everyone else in this country does and work later than most and that is when they are back in garrison. When they are in the field or of fight a war then they are lucky to get a few hours of sleep each night and are required to do more in one day than most do in a month. They can't take a "SICK" day without medical clearance and all vacation is not granted when it is best for them but when it is best for the employer. There is no HR to go to if you think you are not getting what you want when you want it either. They just do what ever other military person who has come before them which is SUCK IT UP AND DRIVE ON. the rest of the people in this country that think that they are underpaid should try and do the same

    May 1, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The Others

      Welcome to being a surgical resident. 100+ hours a week, no sick time and your vacations are set by the administration (i.e. don't expect to go to anyone's wedding). People, medicine is in a shambles and it is not the doctors fault. Hospitals and insurance companies have been making record profits and thier administrators make salaries well over what most physicians make. That is the issue. And finally, just like pro-athletes, excellent physicians are very few and far between. If you take the number of pro-basketball players, there are more of them then top surgeons across the country. Now, do you want an underpaid surgeon operating on you?

      May 1, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • MIke

      We get it. Soldiers are under paid. We agree, actually. But in the US Military, they are all volunteers who knew what they were getting into when they signed up. Front line soldiers deal with huge amounts of stress and have a lot of responsibility to the rest of the people they serve with. But remember, for every man or woman in harms way, there are a lot of soldiers behind the scenes who are doing what amounts to a normal job. They may be in a dangerous posting, but most of them don't face the same dangers. Also, while soldiers do get low pay, they get room and board to go with it. Not to mention the best health care possible, education, and benefits once they get out. And don't forget that most soldiers, sailors, airmen, etc., are in for a hitch that's shorter than an MD's time in medical school, let alone the rest.

      Not to dis soliders – they are some of the bravest men and women around (and I'm not just talking US. Anyone willing to stand in harms way earns my respect, no matter where they serve) – but that's no reason to dis doctors. The bar to join is high, the liabilities for the profession is high, and the hours are thankless.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
  17. Dave

    If medical doctors think they are underpaid for the amount of work they do and the schooling they have they should look at university science faculty. At a typical research university a faculty member in the biological sciences makes less than $100,000 per year. They have to teach, run a lab, get grant money to keep the lab running, review scientific articles and help run the department. A typical work week is 70 hours. To get to this point they have 4 years of undergraduate education, 5-7 years of graduate education to get a Ph.D., and 3-6 years (often longer) of post doctoral work. Post Doctoral work is sort of like the internship, but without a strong possibility of getting a real job when completed (usually just another post doc job). Post Docs do a large amount of the research performed in our universities and typically make $30,000 to $50,000 per year. The science faculty do not make life and death decisions, but they have as much or more education and work every bit as hard as most medical doctors.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • medschoolkid

      They don't make life or death decisions, nor do they pay malpractice insurance. Plus a PhD is way cheaper than med school. Of course any doctor has a lot of respect for those researchers and professors because they helped educate the doctors.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • dude

      Thats not the point. Its supply and Demand not $ for years spent in school. There is someone on the other end of the paycheck who values the service and is willing to pay it (in the case of a hospital or more typically a group of doctors working in a revenue sharing office). If you think doctors are overpaid, then start a hospital and hire a bunch of minimum wage doctors...you'll make a killing!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
  18. RP MD

    Really fascinating to see the variety of comments here.

    Yes, physicians do make more money than most. We also have the most educational debt, largest sacrifice of personal time away from their families and highest liability cost of any other profession. That liability (and the failure of national medicolegal tort reform) get's passed on to patient's bills everyday, with some estimates being as high as 7.5% of the cost of all healthcare in our country.

    More discerning is the unmatched government regulation of pricing on our (and all healthcare)services that impose a financial ceiling on healthcare providers. In fact, those of you that have experienced poor medical care should consider that, in our current system, the worse providers get paid the same as the best – not really a free-market model. I would guess that most of you would not accept the goverment dictating how much you get paid for what you do, especially if you spent 12 years after high school just to get to point where you could start working.

    If you going to complain about how much doctor's get paid then you should advocate for national medicolegal tort reform and to allow doctors to be able to set their own prices and not have the government tell you what you're going to pay them for their services!!!

    May 1, 2012 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul F.

      largest sacrifice of personal time away from their families and highest liability cost of any other profession. really do you spend a year away from your family like those in the military. Is the cost of your liability your life? get real

      May 1, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • medschoolkid

      No one is bashing the military, but the military pays for every dollar of our service men and women's education. Doctors must pay out of pocket for their own education.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
    • LouAZ

      "allow doctors to be able to set their own prices" ?
      “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

      May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • Fishtar

      Good point. The only reason you doctors make what they make is that the federal GOVERNMENT puts a cap on the the number of medical interns allowed each year. If it were really a free market there would be a whole lot more doctors, they would all get paid abotut $100k a year, and health care would be a whole lot better and cheaper.

      And know you want tort reform too.....no competion......no accountability.....

      May 1, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Paul F.

      No body siad that the military is being bashed but to make statements think that your profession is above all is an insult to other professions that have much more to worry about on a daily basis. You need to put into perspective the claims that are being made here. I understand that doctors want more and the price is rising for everyday expenses b ut remember that it is also rising for everyone not just you and you make far more that many other jobs in this country. You DO not have the most important job in this country and the only reason you can make the money you are making is because of the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday and do not get paid enough in one year to cover hat they do in one month. Please be respctful with your statements about how hard and demanding your job and schooling is when you yourself could never know the cost of being in the military

      May 1, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • Holly

      My husband is a paramedic and is away from home just as much as you and makes about $14 an hour. But, he does not complain because a) he knew what he was choosing when he decided to go into EMS, b) he loves helping people, c) he vows that he will continue to lobby for better wages and working conditions (like scheduled mealtime). If doctors do not like it, try to change it. Or, do not become doctors. This situation is the reason for the rise in P.A.'s; doctors will soon become simply administrators and supervisors anyway.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  19. Correct me if I'm wrong

    How did Dave cash a check that was suppose to be made out to the doctor? If the insurance company made the check payable to Dave, then asked him to forward the whole amount to the doctor, did they not think that the money might not actually get to the doctor because Dave would never do such a thing as keep the money for himself? The insurance company should have sent the check straight to the doctor if that was the case.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Med Student

    Reasons why doctors, rightfully so, complain about compensation, shown by the numbers.


    May 1, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Annie

    The patient keeping the check is nothing new. That's why most physicians are forced to accept assignment and participate in the patient's plan–a little is better than nothing. I work for a general surgeon who pays $120,000/year in malpractice, and he does not pay a surcharge, which some physicians have to pay. Doesn't include the rest of his overhead. Show me one other profession that has to pay usurious fees to practice. Certainly not lawyers. Trust me, they aren't making half what you think they are.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tom

    I have doctors in my family and they work very hard. Unfortunately, they also have to fend off the shady lawyers.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dw

      That's outrageous! I have lawyers in my family who are fending off shady doctors!

      May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
  23. R2r2us

    Doctors aren't the only one undervalued in todays society. It's what happens when you decide you want to make a difference through your job – you don't get paid for it.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. dina


    May 1, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul F.

      Good idea and maybe the Military should do the same and see how you feel

      May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • MrApplesauce

      Police could say/do the same thing... except it's illegal for them to strike.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  25. WakeUpPeople

    So this is how it works – for all you out there who hate the system:

    1) You go to the doctor for a broken arm.
    2) Your doctor asks, "Who is your insurance provider?" – You reply XYZ Insurance.
    3) Although the "No Insurance" rate for setting a broken arm at a doctor, with associated sling, cast, etc, is $1500, that is not what the doctor gets.
    4) XYZ Insurance basically tells the doctor, "Unless you accept our rates, our patients will not come to your practice." – and then they tell the doctor, "For a broken arm, we pay $250."
    5) And you wonder why less and less people are going into Medicine? It really is sad.

    We're just around the corner from The United States of Socialist America. It's coming.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. leshayner

    But what about expenses? Do you have to pay rent and utilities for your office? How about staff costs? Do you have a secretary, a nurse or two? Do you pay tens of thousands per year in malpractice premiums? People only see the gross number that Dr.s make and thing that's what they're pocketing. Let's not forget about expenses and student loan payments and let's cut these guys a break. They deserve what they earn and we shouldn't begrudge anyone willing to take the level of risk that they do a living. They made a huge commitment- financial and otherwise when they decided to go to med school, let's recognize that. They are providing goods and services just like any other business and should be compensated for it.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. WakeUpPeople

    Who is JOHN GALT?

    May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jim

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

    Incorrect. Lawyers are sometimes required to work for free, too.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • leshayner

      JIM- lawyers are not required to work for free- they can choose to do so or are often rewarded by their firm in other ways for doing pro bono work. They can also write off free services on their taxes. Doctors usually cannot.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
    • kanjaji

      Get over it. Try working as a retail manager, dock supervisor, sales person or news reporter all also exempt from overtime pay and yes, typically they are required to work OT "for free".

      May 1, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  29. Drew

    Doctor's have to go through hell to get the job and they are held to insanely high standards for their work.

    200k does not go fair when you lose 33% to taxes, have to pay 30k for mal practice insurance and graduate school with 250k in debt. If you start med school at 23 and dont have mom and dad to pay for it your looking at being mid to late 30's before you are earning income free of debt from student loans. God forbid you have college loans on top of that also.

    Doctors are underpaid in my opinion for what they have to go through. Imagine being a teacher and grading a student paper incorrectly and the consequence is THEY DIE. That is what a doctor has to deal with every single day of their lives it is incredibly stressful and mentally straining to know that a mistake can kill a person, not to mention the families of the people you are trying to help disgreeing with your highly trained opinion at every turn.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nseth

      It is not just doctors who are underpaid. All jobs are paying to where for 99% of the people retirement is a pipe dream and it is going to get worse. The structure of our costs is ridiculous. Why does education cost so much, why is healthcare costing so much, and on and on. No society can thrive when the basics are out of reach for 90+%. Who says we can afford to be the world's policemen at no cost to the world while our own cops are not being paid enough. At some point something has to give, the question is when and how

      May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  30. pat

    Overpaid? No. Underpaid? Nope! At the same time, get over yourself. 1.9 mil to put a ball in a hoop? Its called the economics of the industry! Idiot. Ball players get paid that much because the $129 ticket prices that idiots shell out for court side seats and all of the freaks who tune in to the game. Same as the medical field. When you pay $350 a month for ins that you rarely use, who gets the money? The doctors! So you pay $350 a month to the ins company which totals $3,000 a year. You pay that for 5 years and the total is $21,000! Oh im sorry I didnt give you the $3,000 for youre service. Idiots. By the way, i had to pay $3,000 for an hour visit to the ER for a blood test, ekg and the doctor to tell me im ok. So whats your argument?

    May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Nseth

    Let us put a doctor's salary in perspective. And I am not a doctor. Assume a doctor has 200K in loans at 5% over twenty years he has to pay 15K a year. Now with a low salary of lets say 150K he has to pay 10K in social security and taxes. He pays around another 45K in state and federal taxes. Now he is down to 100K. Lets say he wants to save 20K a year in 401K now he is down to 80K. Take out 15K of student loans and he is down to 65K in hand. Doesn't sound a lot now does it. And by the way he doesn't have any elaborate pensions to rely upon. His 20K a year will with interest get him $1.1 million at 4% in savings, before taxes, by the time he is 65 assuming he started at 35 to save. Yes it seems like a lot but it is not. He still has to find a couple of hundred thousand in savings to buy a house and even more to put his kids through college. So the point I am making is that we have a very screwed up system when a so called high end profession like a doctor too has very little hope of retiring with sizable earnings. Yes we may not feel like 'crying; for them, but for all of us unless we are two income families with household incomes in the the 200K plus range finding money for education for our kids and retirement are going to be a challenge going forward.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ron Harding

    I'm sorry but I hardly believe that the situation with "Dave" is typical in the medical field. Teachers must have a 4-year college degree and many earn a Masters Degree (one additional year) and usually start at a national average of around $30,000.00 per year. You have to be a school district superintendent with a doctorate degree and at least 8 years of experience to even approach an MD's starting average income of $140,000.00 per year. Perhaps less years should be required for residency and have the medical field work more with Physician Assistants (PAs). Afterall, it doesn't require a fully qualified MD with 10 years or more of education and residency to give a patient a "physical" !! Furthermoe, I just paid my PCP $125.00 for an office call when I actually spent just 10 minutes with him. That comes to $12.50 per minute which I would call "pretty good pay" !!

    May 1, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sbp

      Yes, doctors still make more than school teachers, and while I think teachers should be making more than garbagemen (and many don't), the discrepancy with doctors is a reflection of the job itself and typically, the intelligence of the doctors. The best jobs in most fields – law, accounting, banking, insurance, whatever – tend to go to the smartest people. Most teachers (and my mother was one) are not as smart as most doctors, or they would have gone to med school, law school, MBA, etc....

      May 1, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
    • medschoolkid

      But that $125.00 also pays for the nurses and support staff, the building, malpractice insurance, and all the bills owed to the doctor that people like Dave don't pay.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • David

      Teachers also receive a pensions, which are all but extinct in the public sector. A pension pays 90% of their highest earnings for life. They can then quit and get Social Security with 10 years of additional public sector work. Teaching is hard too, but you would be hard pressed to say the average teacher is as smart as the average doctor or that their schooling is anywhere as rigorous. When I was in engineering school and girl I knew was studying to become a teacher. Her college homework, that she had trouble doing, my five year old can do. The teacher to doctor comparison is the silliest thing I have ever heard.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • whiners

      Ok, the statement teachers aren't as smart as doctors is entirely subjective. I know quite a few attorneys and they aren't all that bright, while I teach with some who have scored perfect on the SAT's, math prodigies, and the list goes on. What is smart? Study really hard for 12 years and persist in order to make 150-250k a year, or the guy who codes an app without a college degree and sells his company for 15 million. Yes, getting into medical school is more challenging than get certified to be a teacher; however, I would not say that being a doctor is anymore or less challenging than teaching effectively. Everyone can call themselves a teacher, but I know very few who can do it remarkably well. Similarly, there are many incompetent or mediocre doctors that I have seen throughout the year who may perform well on an exam, but put them in a situtation where they can't control all the variables and watch them flounder. Your statement is ignorant, and I'm surprised you even got into medical school, and I doubt you are any good.

      May 1, 2012 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
  33. sbp

    Just remember, compensation for most doctors is a controlled by the Insurance Companies, who over the years have been slowly turning off the tap. In the 60's and 70's, doctors were among the richest people in town. Then the insurers realized they could simply not agree to pay an arm and a leg for a procedure.

    The only doctors with the ability to still make lawyer or banker money (citing professions with people just as intelligent and educated) are those that do ELECTIVE procedures. Like the author, a plastic surgeon. Getting a boob job isn't covered, so he can charge whatever the market will bear because it comes out of the patient's pocket. Most doctors are constrained by the insurers, who are getting fatter and fatter.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Annie

      You're so right. "the insurance companies realized they couldn't pay an arm and a leg." They now keep the money so that they can pay their executives millions of dollars a year in salary and bonuses. No insurance company loses money, otherwise they wouldn't be in business. And you fight for every dollar that you get out of them. Our payor model needs significant reform.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
  34. Charlie

    I think we can all agree that Dave's a jerk, but what does that have to do with doctors being either overpaid or underpaid? Nothing. Everyone who has a business knows about deadbeats and people who don't pay their bills, it's just a sad part of doing business.

    So let's talk about actual compensation. If you're making $150k a year you are knocking on the door of the top 5% of all earners in the US, if you're making $300k a year that's close to the top 1% in the US, and equivalently that makes you in the upper nose-bleed echelon of all earners on the planet. Actors, athletes, hedge fund managers all make tons of cash, sure, but how many people tried out for those positions and failed, vs. how many people decide to be a doctor and make it? Being a doctor is certainly not easy and it's hard work, but it's much more likely to happen if you put your mind and effort towards it than becoming a star athlete or an a-list actor. You could put all your effort and time into becoming a star basketball player and never even have a shot, but if you put the same effort into becoming a doctor, the vast majority of people will make it.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jim

    Wrong. Medical schools are OVERPAID.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Joyce Mooney

    The part about the doctors changing Dave's bandages every day? I don't buy that. The nurses and other folks do that. Puh-leez.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. lynne

    okay... It isn't fair to compare ANYONE's salary to professional athletes. Yes, they make an absurd amount of money – but ANYONE could use that argument – i.e. "I am a teacher with 3 degrees and I make 34K a year – NBA players make 5 million. I should make more money." It's a wash – unfair all around.
    With that said, I don't know the finer points of physician pay, but in the grand scheme of things, I think they're doing fine. Millions of people work hard for much less money. NOBODY today feels fairly compensated.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What is unfair isn’t the comparison but that we pay people extraordinary amounts of money for stupid chit like putting a ball in a hoop. While teachers, policemen and firemen get a pennies. It’s call a lack of priorities. But hey..i’m sure this is bouncing right of that think head of yours. Don’t you have a game to watch while someone else teaches your kids and keeps you safe?

      May 1, 2012 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
  38. Son of Dr.

    If you think Drs. and overpaid, think this: If I were to break my leg or have a heart attack, could I heal myself? NO! You would need a highly skilled Dr. They have tons of education and experience and should be paid as such. You want to make that much? There is NOTHING stopping you from going to school and becoming a Dr. Only excuses! Btw, if you think this 'Dave' case is rare, it's not. Too many people stiff Drs on their bill. So then they sue, which also costs money. You want to be rich, work for it!

    May 1, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Larry

    Primary care physicians should be the highest paid doctors, but it is just the reverse. My friend who is a plastic surgeon, much like the author of this article, is well compensated for all the flotation devices he implants in insecure women each day and lives in a $3 million dollar home.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sbp

      Bingo. And that's because his patients pay him directly. Primary care compensation is essentially set in stone by the insurance companies.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Larry
      Sorry but no. The reason primary care doctors make the least is because they have the least amount of education and there are far more of them(for the same reason).

      May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
  40. Future Doc

    When will people realize that there is a simple formula for how much someone makes? It's called supply and demand. The more demand and the less supply there is, the more someone will be paid for doing a certain job. Even as a medical student, I can see that this is a simple explanation for the variety of salaries you see in the US today.

    In medicine, the supply is limited as there are artificial barriers to entry – you need to attend an accredited 4 year program, and pass the board to be allowed to legally practice medicine. Since there are a static number of medical school programs, the supply is tightly regulated. Then there's the demand – with an ever-increasing and aging population, the demand for medical care has been increased. Simple economic thinking will tell you that limited supply with increased demand is the reason why doctors are – and should be compensated well.

    You can extend this thinking to all the other examples. Why are lawyers making less? Because there are too many law schools and not enough jobs for lawyers. Why do NBA players make 7 figure salaries? Because it's not easy to grow a couple standard deviations of height above the mean and have the genetic and environmental blessing to become a great basketball player. The relative demand for a great basketball player is so much greater than the demand which justifies the salary.

    I'm often annoyed when people try to claim that there are justifications for how much a job is "worth." It's not really wise to cling to the idea that there are intrinsic values to any job that should justify compensation for that job. It doesn't matter how instrinsically valuable what you are doing is. If you are easily replaceable, then your salary will reflect this. But at the same time, I feel like doctors shouldn't complain about medical student debt – if you are able and smart enough, taking one of the especially high paying specialties should nullify any reasonable amount of student debt. Of course, if you can't land one of these residency spots, then it will take you longer to pay off your debt but you will still most certainly end up in the top 10% of wage-earners.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Supra

    Well, considering that they're the people you always turn to when s#!t hits the fan, I think they should earn more.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Saul

    I have a PhD in Math. I went to 4 years undergrad, 6 years graduate school, a 4 year postdoc, and am now in my 30's finally an Assistant Professor working for a great school. I have hopes of getting tenure and being a Full Professor in 4 years. That's a total of 18 years of schooling (if my math is correct). I like what I do, but I'd love the salary of a Doctor. I hope to make what they do in another 10 years. But in this economy I'm grateful for a job to provide the needs and many wants for my family. I have no reason to complain.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I have to call BS on this story. The surgeon did NOT come back to change Dave’s bandages. It is also unlikely the insurance only paid $3,200 to say nothing of the fact they don’t send those checks to the patients. (leaving room for exceptions) However.. I fully support our doctors and believe the cost of education and insurance is ridiculous.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Mike S

    For those who keep pointing out the level of debt many doctors reach to practice in their field, you should also consider the ability to pay that debt. If you make $250,000 per year and have $110,000 in student loans then you can easily pay off all of your student loans in 2 years at that salary. Heck, at your typical residents' salaries, with deferred loans, you can even put a dent into your loans prior to leaving residency.

    Think about it:
    $250k pretax = $138k post tax, even in some of the highest taxing states around. Put $55k of that into paying off those loans and you still have a comfortable $83k to live on... WELL over the median household pre-tax income in the US.

    Considering your high earning level, those loans are nothing to cry about. Try being a teacher. In our state, they've demanded a masters degree, so you have 5-6 years of college before you can start earning, and $30k in debt isn't the least bit unusual. Then you get rewarded with a salary of $40k ***if you're lucky*** of which the state immediately confiscates $5600 for your pension. After you get done paying taxes, you have about $27,500 to live on. Then you get to pay ~$2,000-$2500 per year on your loans.... meaning you actually get to live on about $25k, while you get to hear all the pundits complain that you're grossly overpaid.

    I'm not saying doctors are grossly overpaid (some I believe are truly underpaid, while others are overpaid)... but complaining about student loans is ridiculous when even an EXTREMELY aggressive repayment plan leaves you living in relative luxury.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • scarf

      For the most part, I agree with you. I graduated from med school with a moderate debt load, but I paid it off in less than 10 years with a little discipline and sacrifice. What really bothered me was that I wasn't making any money to speak of for 8-10 years during my education. I made $15K/ year as a resident (granted this was over 20 years ago) and still had to pay for my own health insurance (isn't that ironic?). When I went to my high school reunions, my friends all had nice houses (with big mortgages) and I was living in the low rent district and driving a 10 year old car.

      May 1, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  45. Dano558

    If Doctors are getting paid too much, then just seek out Doctors who don't charge as much. You won't be able to do it. Their pay is a result of the demand for their services against the ability of the market to supply those services. There is just not that many people out there qualified to become doctors compared to everyone else.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Q

    This is like saying lawyers are underpaid...blah, blah, blah. Legal and medicine...two professions that when the professional is wrong you pay the price...literally and other.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Reasonable Reader

    Too funny to read about people who believe they should be paid simply because they have a degree in something. Its a matter of training in something people will pay you well to do, and it pays to figure that part out ahead of time.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Alex

    The whole business model for medical services in America is shot. Doctors have to churn through patients as fast as they can so they can cover their bills, insureance companies want to pay as little as possibleto keep profits high, and actual paying patients get some of the worst care out there. My experience over the last three years with seeing doctors multiple time a week on both coasts of the country support my statement. It's sad for the docs, but worse for the patients.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. MM

    I wish the article quoted salaries other than senior management. I realize those were quoted for a reason, to sensationalize the high figures. You should mention how much at lower level manager makes. Most of the country makes $35K or less.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. DWA

    It upsets me how judgmental people can be. First of all, doctors are not the only ones who have to study 10+ years before they can have their own practice. Many professions require you to study through out your whole career. Some of these professions do not offer salaries as high as $150K. Doctors know what they will be going thru before they decide they want to become a doctor, e.g. debts, insurances, ungrateful people, and others. All of us (professionals and unprofessionals) have to put up with a lot of junk in our work places. I am very grateful to my doctors, I always thank them in my visits, but don't complain about money because I know doctors are not living on the streets as many others are right now.

    May 1, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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