July 10, 2012: Compensation of primary care physicians – now at more than $200,000 — grew at a faster rate than specialists over the last five years, a sign that those who hire health professionals are putting a greater emphasis on lower cost outpatient care, a new study shows.
The analysis of physician pay by the Medical Group Management Association indicates a greater shift to lower-cost primary care as employers, insurance companies and government health programs try to provide financial incentives to health professionals who work in outpatient care settings.
Median compensation for primary care physicians grew five percent last year to $212,840, capping a five-year increase of 16.7 percent from 2007 to 2011. Though specialized physicians still make almost double the compensation their primary care counterparts at $384,467, their median compensation grew more slowly at 15.6 percent from 2007 to 2011. Here’s a link to MGMA’s report.
Primary care professionals are expected to take on a greater role as health benefits are expanded in the next two years under the Affordable Care Act. Most health insurers like Aetna Inc. (AET), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Humana (HUM) and Blue Cross plans are moving toward payment models that want doctors to better coordinate care for larger groups or “populations” of patients through so-called Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Under the Affordable Care Act, larger doctor groups and hospitals are forming ACOs to contract with the Medicare program.
“There appears to be a growing focus on primary care providers in anticipation of new methodologies in payment, a focus on coordination of care, and the imperative to control utilization and costs in the system,” said Dr. Michael Nochomovitz, president of University Hospitals Physician Services in Cleveland and recent Medical Group Management Association board director.
The survey data indicates an effort to “have that gap between specialists and primary care doctors closed,” said Todd Evenson, who directs the survey for the medical group association. “There’s a feeling within the industry that there is a primary care shortage across the U.S. From a demand perspective, it has to be made more attractive for those physicians to enter the field.”
Meanwhile, nurse practitioners are being financially rewarded for filling voids in the primary care field. Advanced-degreed nurses known as nurse practitioners saw their compensation jump 18 percent over the five year period ending last year to more than $91,000.
Nurse practitioners are in demand across the health care industry as hospitals, clinics and retailers like Walgreen Co. (WAG) and CVS/Caremark (CVS) hire more practitioners and open more clinics next to their pharmacies.
“They are seen as a real resource in the industry to provide an additional foundation for the delivery of care,” Evenson said of nurse practitioners. “They are seen as a real resource in the industry to provide an additional foundation for the delivery of care. They will be one of the likely health professionals that we as a nation will look to supporting our primary care needs for the future.”
Source: John & Rusty Report via Word & Brown