Today, a survey revealed that primary care physicians’ compensation rose by more than 10 percent over the past five years. This increase, which is nearly double that of specialty physicians’ compensation over the same period, is further evidence of the worsening primary care physician shortage in the American healthcare system.
A closer look at the MGMA Provider Compensation survey data shows that this rise in compensation is not necessarily tied to an increase in productivity. When broken down by primary care focus, family medicine physicians saw a 12 percent rise in total compensation over the past five years, while their median number of work relative value units (wRVUs) remained flat, increasing by less than one percent. Practices offered more benefits to attract and retain physicians, including higher signing bonuses, continuing medical education stipends, and relocation expense reimbursements.
“MGMA’s latest survey has put strong data behind a concerning trend we’ve seen in the American healthcare system for some time—we are experiencing a real shortage of primary care physicians,” said Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, President and Chief Executive Officer at MGMA. “Many factors contribute to this problem, chief among them being an increasingly aging population that’s outpacing the supply of chronic care they require. And with a nearly two-fold rise in median compensation for primary care physicians over their specialist counterparts and increased additional incentives, we can now see the premium organizations are placing on primary care physicians’ skills to combat this shortage.”
Further supporting this trend, the new survey identified meaningful growth in compensation for non-physician providers over the past 10 years. Nurse practitioners saw the largest increase over this period with almost 30 percent growth in total compensation. Primary care physician assistants saw the second-largest median rise in total compensation with a 25 percent increase.
“In many communities that we visit, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice providers provide immediate care and same day access. These providers play an important role in today’s health care system. It’s more efficient and less expensive than visiting the emergency room,” said Nick Fabrizio, Principal Consultant at MGMA.
Based on comparative data from over 136,000 providers in over 5,800 organizations, the 2018 MGMA DataDive Provider Compensation is the most comprehensive sample of any physician compensation survey in the United States. The survey represents a variety of practice types including physician-owned, hospital-owned, academic practices, as well as providers from across the nation at small and large practices.
Other highlights from the survey include:
- Over the past five years, rises in median compensation varied greatly by state. In two states, median total compensation actually decreased for primary care physicians: Alabama (-9 percent) and New York (-3 percent). Many states saw much larger increases in median total compensation compared to the national rate, the top five being Wyoming (41 percent), Maryland (29 percent), Louisiana (27 percent), Missouri (24 percent) and Mississippi (21 percent).
- Current median total compensation for primary care physicians also varies greatly by state. The District of Columbia is the lowest paying with $205,776 in median total compensation. Nevada is the highest paying state with $309,431 in median total compensation.
- Over the last five years, looking beyond just nurse practitioners, overall non-physician provider compensation has increased at a rate of 8 percent. Looking at the changes over the past 10 years, that rate has doubled to 17 percent. As non-physician providers have increasingly become patients’ primary care providers over the past 10 years, combined with a subsequent shortage of non-physician providers, compensation rates continue to grow for nurse practitioners and primary care physician assistants.
- The difference in compensation between the highest-paid state compared to the lowest ranges between $100,000 and almost $270,000 for physicians depending on specialties, and $65,000for non-physician providers.