According to a new study published in Health Affairs, America's approximately 1.1 million physicians are paid dramatically higher fees than those in all of the other more than 230 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development countries. Per capita, our physicians are paid $1,599; other countries averaged significantly less than that -- about 81% less -- or about $310. The difference, nearly $1,300, is a major factor in driving up U.S. healthcare costs, and, according to the report, is the the main cause of higher overall spending in America on physicians' services.
The disparity comes into stark focus in the area of specialists' fees. While U.S. primary care docs earned significantly higher than their foreign counterparts -- averaging $186,582 annually -- orthopedic physicians earned $442,450. As an example, the study compared physicians’ fees paid by public and private payers for hip replacements in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, finding that much higher fees were paid to U.S. orthopedic physicians for hip replacements (70 percent more for public payers, 120 percent more for private payers) than public and private payers paid these specialitsts in other countries. The study concludes that "the higher fees, rather than factors such as higher practice costs, volume of services, or tuition expenses, were the main drivers of higher U.S. spending, particularly in orthopedics."
According to August, 2011 CarePrecise data, of the approximately 1.1 million U.S. physicians, about 35,500 practice as orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons, with another 378,000 specialists practicing in the high fee taxonomies. Only about 160,000 U.S. physicians serve in family practice.