How to get the most from a family health plan
When a family doctor offers to cover your kids’ health care costs, it can be a big deal.
But a new study suggests a more practical way to get a boost from a doctor’s salary.
“We don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to be able to do this,” says Sara E. DeRosa, assistant professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“We just need a few things that are already in place.”
The study looked at how much a family physician might charge if he or she were to work full-time, but also for time off.
DeLosa and her colleagues analyzed the Medicare and Medicaid data from 2014 and 2015, and they looked at physicians who billed for health care services for kids under the age of 18.
The data showed that in 2014, a family physicians salary was about $60,000.
In 2015, the salary jumped to $72,000, a 7.9% increase.
This increase was a little more than 3% in absolute dollars, but DeLosas team says the overall increase was about 6% to 8%.
“It was almost like we’re paying a whole bunch of people a lot less,” says DeLosesa, who also holds a doctorate in health policy and public policy at Duke University.
In fact, the pay increase for pediatricians was more than double what it was for general practitioners.
“It’s almost like this doctor is going from a whole lot of money to a lot more money,” says deLosesas co-author, University of Michigan associate professor of economics Jennifer Wojcicki.
The study is in the Journal of Health Economics, but the researchers say it highlights a point that health economists have been making for years.
While the pay rise for pediatric doctors has been well publicized, it’s important to note that this is just a sample of doctors.
The study also looked at family physicians, dentists, nursing home care, and physicians who work in the private sector, and did not include doctors who work for public employers.
“There’s some variation,” DeLoesas says.
“In the private sectors, some of the doctors are doing this in very small numbers, while others are more concentrated.”
For example, in 2015, just one of 11 family physicians in the U.S. earned more than $120,000 a year.
In 2016, that number jumped to 22.
In 2017, it jumped to 27.
This is because some of these doctors are highly paid, and some are less so.
In other words, DeLossas team is suggesting that the typical pediatrician working full-timers makes $100,000 less than the typical family physician, but their salary is still more than the average.
“I think there are a lot fewer people out there who are doing that type of work,” says Wojcik.
The pay increase comes on the heels of a significant increase in federal spending on health care, particularly on Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled.
In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government spent about $1 trillion on health insurance for the 2015-2020 period.
DeLoosas study finds that some of this spending was actually offset by other costs like increased premiums for insurance policies.
DeLoosases study also found that doctors who are earning more than a doctor with similar qualifications have an advantage.
For example, the study found that pediatricians earning more are more likely to be in the top 1% of income earners.
But when comparing doctors earning less to doctors earning more, the advantage for these doctors is smaller.
“A physician who earns $100K and is working in a different area is likely to get paid more because they’re better trained and they’re not in the minority,” says co-authors Erika D. Pomeranz and Daniel M. Katz.
This article originally appeared on Next Big Futures.