Outing the RUC: Medicare Reimbursement and Primary Care

JOSH FREEMAN

Originally published 2/2/11 on Medicine and Social Justice

Along with many others, I have written extensively about the need for more primary care physicians in the US. I have also addressed the various disincentives that exist for medical students to enter primary care specialties, such as family medicine, rather than narrower subspecialties or procedural specialties. One of these is the lower income earned by doctors in primary care; this is felt by many to be one of the major issues in specialty selection, and is increasing in importance as students graduate from medical school with larger and larger debt burdens, often exceeding $200,000. A study by the Robert Graham Center of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), “Income disparities shape medical student choice”, finds that the difference in income between primary care on subspecialists has been increasing since 1981, and that by now there is a difference of $3.5 million in the lifetime income of the average subspecialist (not even the most highly paid) and the average primary care physician.

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