Growth in primary care pay outstrips increases in specialist compensation

Thanks largely to the spread of managed care, medical schools are minting increasing numbers of physicians who eschew specialty practice for primary care. Now, according to the AMA, primary care physicians are beginning to gain financial rewards for their choice, although their pay still lags behind that of specialists.

Mean net income for general and family physicians posted dramatic year-to-year increases in 1994 and 1995 after several years of incremental growth, while nonprimary care specialty physicians' compensation dramatically slowed over a five-year period ending in 1995.

The findings are consistent with the rapid growth of managed care and its emphases on primary care “gatekeeping” and specialist referral restrictions. Interestingly, the chunk of a physician's revenues derived from capitated contracts is similar, whether the physician practices primary care or specialty medicine.