Seth A. Seabury of the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., and colleagues estimated annual earnings and hourly wages of physicians and other health professionals from the Current Population Survey, a nationally representative monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households.
This sample included 30,556 respondents across all years who reported working as health professionals, including 6,258 physicians, Seabury said.
The research letter, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found after adjustment, earnings grew from 1987-1990 to 1996-2000 by 20 percent for physicians. No significant growth was seen in physician earnings from 1996-2000 to 2006-2010, but adjusted earnings increased for other health professionals such as pharmacists at 34 percent.
"Despite attention paid to higher earnings of physicians in the United States compared with other countries, physician earnings grew less than those of other health professionals in the last 15 years," Seabury said in a statement.
"Possible explanations include managed care growth, Medicaid payment cuts, Medicaid payment cuts, sluggish Medicare payment growth, or bargaining by insurance companies. Despite lack of recent growth, physician earnings remain higher than other occupations."