Why Physician Compensation Shouldn’t Be a Controversial Issue
Physician jobs generally come with six-figure salaries. That is normal and, within the healthcare industry, acceptable. Professionals in other industries may think physician compensation is too high. The same goes for certain portions of the general public. But why the disagreement? Physician compensation should not be a controversial issue.
The KevinMD website published a post in mid-July 2022 written by a doctor who had just returned to traditional employment after spending more than a year working for free. The post is not clear with the details of her story, but it is clear in explaining her belief that physicians need not be ashamed for ‘selling’ their services. She specifically mentioned physician-entrepreneurs in her remarks.
Again, it is not clear what she means by ‘physician-entrepreneur’. A careful reading of the post seems to suggest that this would be any physician engaging in entrepreneurial pursuits alongside practicing medicine. Apparently, comments this doctor has read on social media give her the impression that certain people are not happy about such practices.
Medicine Is a Business
It would appear as though some of the commenters whose thoughts triggered the author of the KevinMD post were actual physicians. Strange as it sounds, the idea of medicine being combined with entrepreneurship is foreign to some. They just cannot wrap their brains around it.
The reality is that medicine is a business. Here in the U.S., hospitals need to make a profit to remain operational. Likewise, their physician jobs need to be supported by competitive salaries and benefits in order to recruit and retain top talent. Everything from the top down is business oriented – from recruiting clinicians to buying hospital supplies.
Even single-payer systems operate on a business model. The government may pay the bill, but it’s private business that supplies beds, linens, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, etc. It is impossible to remove the business component and still have a medical system.
Doctors Are Worth Their Hire
It’s true that the healthcare industry is somewhat unique. It exists to care for hurting and suffering people. As far as that goes, it provides a service no other industry can offer. But that does not change the fact that providing the service costs money. Even doctors spend money to care for their patients.
Doctors spend nearly a decade being educated and trained just to provide primary care. Some specialties require even more training. All that training costs money. How much does it cost? A ton.
Doctors complete their educations with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt hanging over their heads. They need to pay for it somehow. For them, it’s a cost of doing business. They recover that cost through the compensation they receive.
Demand Plays a Role
We also cannot forget that demand plays a role. Highly coveted positions requiring specialized skill and training demand higher pay. It’s simple to understand. There are far more people who can cut grass than perform delicate brain surgery. A limited supply of brain surgeons means greater competition for their services. Higher salaries are inevitable.
None of us should begrudge doctors for their annual salaries. They provide services that we want and need. They have the right to earn salaries commensurate with the services they provide. We apply this principle to just about every other career, it should apply equally to physician jobs.
Physician compensation should not be a controversial issue. Doctors work within a system that rewards them for the work they do. The rest of us should be happy for them. They have put in the time and effort to become doctors. They deserve to reap the rewards of doing so.