Everyone likes to complain about how much money doctors make. Many people hear the word “physician” and equate it with a mansion, BMW, and lavish vacation. But physicians don’t make nearly as much as you think.
After finishing high school, physicians spend a minimum of 11 years in training. Specialized physicians train even longer, sometimes for as long as 20 years. These are years spent making no money while in school, or making very little money during residency and fellowship. And by the time these individuals are “real” physicians, they are already in their mid-to-late thirties and have spent years struggling financially to support themselves and their families.
During the three to seven years of medical residency, physicians in training who abide by the maximum 80-hour-work-week mandated by the Joint Commission make approximately $11 an hour before taxes. Some residents impermissibly work over 100 hours a week, which makes their hourly wage even lower. Many residents travel to numerous different hospitals, cover the cost of their own gas, and even have to pay for parking at the hospitals where they work. Residents pay hundreds of dollars to attend conferences to improve their knowledge in their area of practice and thousands of dollars to study for and take licensing exams.
Now, you might think that this is a small price to pay to make the big bucks starting at age 35. Wrong. Physician income decreased in 2011, malpractice insurance premiums and other costs are on the rise, and reimbursement rates are declining. Although the potential 26.5 percent Medicare reimbursement cuts were avoided in the fiscal cliff settlement, the fix is only temporary and the increases could still kick in sometime in the future.