Are U.S. Doctors Paid Too Much?

October 14, 2011
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The average annual income for a primary-care doctor surpasses $186,000. U.S. orthopedic surgeons make $442,450 on average. Both figures are substantially higher than the median income in this country — and as much as double the salaries of their foreign counterparts. But U.S. doctors also must spend about 40,000 hours on their education. Loans accumulated through college and medical school can reach $300,527 and take more than 20 years to pay off — depriving a doctor of $788,880 in net income, according to the calculations of physician/author Ben Brown.

The average annual income for a primary-care doctor surpasses $186,000. U.S. orthopedic surgeons make $442,450 on average. Both figures are substantially higher than the median income in this country — and as much as double the salaries of their foreign counterparts. But U.S. doctors also must spend about 40,000 hours on their education. Loans accumulated through college and medical school can reach $300,527 and take more than 20 years to pay off — depriving a doctor of $788,880 in net income, according to the calculations of physician/author Ben Brown.

Even among their peers, American doctors have a tough row to hoe. Education costs in the other five countries examined by the Columbia study — Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom— are lower than in America. In the United Kingdom, for example, medical students pay about $5,000 a year. At American medical schools, tuition and fees run anywhere from four to 10 times as much. Once U.S. doctors complete their education, the workload doesn’t ease. The average physician works 59.6 hours each week — the equivalent of one and a half full-time jobs.

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