We are treated to yet another analysis of how much physicians make, and the income gap between primary care and other specialties, in a recent issue of Health Affairs. Researchers calculated that cardiologists earn a career average of more than $5 million, compared with $2.5 million for PCPs, $1.7 million for business school graduates, and $846,735 for physician assistants. Other specialists earn even more.
Considering the shortage of primary care physicians, the study determined that they would have to receive a $1 million lump-sum payment, or have an annual income boost of $100,000, to make up the difference over the course of a career. Small incentives simply won’t shift the market.
But there is more to life than just money. We talked with many physicians for our recent Goodbye, Hello two-part report on the future of primary care. They expressed concern about the pay gap between primary care and other medical specialties, but they also spoke eloquently about the diversity of their practice, and how they wouldn’t want to see the same medical condition and do the same procedures over and over again. Even if they didn’t make a bazillion dollars, many expressed a measure of professional satisfaction in their work.
Money fills most appetites. If all you are is the sum of your appetites, then money is all there is. We are heartened by the number of primary care physicians – indeed, physicians across many specialties – who are public spirited and want to do something more meaningful with their life than simply rake in the bucks.