Report: Pandemic flattened doctor compensation

The compensation of most physicians remained mostly static, but primary care saw a small bump in 2020.

While the healthcare industry was financially slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic, physician compensation mostly remained static.

According to a news release from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the 2021 MGMA Provider Compensation and Production Report looked at data from 185,000 providers across more than 6,700 organizations and found that some specialty saw slight decreases or increases, but compensation remained widely the same.

Specifically, primary care physicians saw a modest increase of 2.6 percent between 2019 and 2020 as the government swooped in to support practices through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Provider Relief Fund and as patient volumes rebounded later in the years. Advanced practice providers also saw a slight increase of 1.25 percent in compensation during the same timeframe, according to the release.

Meanwhile, there was a 1.91 percent reduction in the median total compensation for specialist physicians between 2019 and 2020, a .89 percent decrease for surgical specialists, and a 1.29 percent slip for nonsurgical specialist, according to the report.

“MGMA’s modest compensation findings belie the turmoil of 2020,” Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, president and CEO of MGMA, says in the release. “Our numbers tell a story of a year of unprecedented challenges that could have potentially led to a serious decline in compensation across every category we track. Practices acted quickly to leverage government programs to cover staff costs and expenses during the early part of the 2020. They adapted to new delivery models such as telemedicine and were able to quickly ramp up when patient volumes returned later in the year. It is a testament to the resiliency of physician groups that weathering the challenges of a year that tested us all in so many ways.”