Good news for primary care physicians. A new report from the Medical Group Management Association shows that median first-year guaranteed compensation for primary care physicians increased 3% in 2012 to $180,000.
The compensation gap between primary care physicians and other specialties has long-been blamed for the decreasing primary care workforce. New doctors saddled with crippling school debt are more likely to choose a higher-paying specialty over primary care, which is one of the lowest. With experts predicting a shortage of 60,000 primary care physicians by 2020, hospitals, medical practices, and even government payers are scrambling to make primary care more desirable. In their report, the MGMA says medical practices and hospitals are using signing bonuses, paid relocation, and loan forgiveness programs to attract new hires. Meanwhile, the Accountable Care Act has also increased primary care compensation by increasing the reimbursement rate for evaluation and management services. Primary care compensation still lags behind other specialties—including noninvasive cardiology ($332,500); orthopedic surgery ($283,400); and obstetrics and gynecology ($212,000)—but the increase is a good sign. Prior to 2012, primary care compensation rates had stayed flat since 2008. The simple rule of supply and demand indicates that increases in primary care compensation will continue to grow in the coming years, which also means demand and rates for primary care locum tenens physicians will also be on the rise. It could be the dawning of a new day for primary care providers.