As physician compensation goes, taking on risk contracts is like wading into a cold pool on a hot day: It's chilly at first. Overall, compensation drops as physicians take on their first risk contracts. For primary care physicians, the water warms up after a while: Income levels bounce back as the share of practice revenue at risk increases. But most specialists never get used to the water. As more and more of their practice revenue falls under risk contracts, the charts show, compensation generally plunges.

SOURCE: PHYSICIAN COMPENSATION AND PRODUCTION SURVEY, CEJKA & CO., ST. LOUIS, FOR THE MEDICAL GROUP MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION, ENGLEWOOD, COLO., 1998