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Study: Medicare pays male doctors more

Are gender pay gaps the result of discrimination, or something else?

An analysis of recently released Medicare data finds that male physicians see far more Medicare patients than female doctors do, and provide each patient with more services — and, shockingly, get paid more for their efforts.

The study from NerdWallet, a financial analytics group, found that on average, male doctors are paid 88 percent more in annual Medicare reimbursements — the program for seniors pays men $118,782 on average and pays women $63,346. But while progressive news organization are already up in arms about the results, NerdWallet found that male physicians, for whatever reason, work significantly more than female doctors.

The Obama administration’s recent push for more legislation eliminate an alleged pay disadvantage for women has sparked renewed controversy, but the in-depth look at Medicare spending data indicates that at least in the medical field, the secret to getting paid the most is simply to do the most work.

The disparity amongst genders in Medicare reimbursements far outweighs the pay gap in the country as a whole. The White House insists that women, as a whole, make 77 cents for every dollar men earn; in Medicare reimbursements, female physicians make 53 percent of what male doctors earn.

But Medicare is a fee-for-service program: its very nature necessitates equal pay for equal work. And yet a pay gap exists — and it’s because male doctors work more.

Across all specialties, male physicians see 60 percent more patients than their female counterparts. The average tally of Medicare patients seen per year is 320 for women and 513 for men.

On top of their higher volume, males perform more services for each one of those patients. “Male doctors billed Medicare, on average, for one more procedure per patient than female physicians,” the report concluded, for a total of 5.7 services per patient for male doctors, as opposed to 4.7 services per patient for female doctors. The disparity exists across all specialties.

The authors came to no conclusion about the value of the services provided by male versus female physicians, but that didn’t stop liberal blogs from insinuating that males are simply taking advantage of the system.

On average, male doctors make 24 percent more per patient than female doctors do throughout the medical profession. 

Men continue to dominate the highest paying surgical fields and, accordingly, work more hours than women. The study’s authors note that women account for less than 10 percent of Medicare physicians in cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, and neurosurgery.

But that doesn’t mean women are not represented in medicine. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women accounted for just over 48 percent of medical school graduates in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. It appears that — just like female White House staffers — female physicians choose to work less, in lower-paying positions, of their own volition.

The study’s discovery of a persistent pay gap, despite the blind eye taken to a doctor’s gender when reimbursements are determined, bolsters the research that has found that unequal work is the culprit for disparities in male and female pay, not a lack of regulation against sexism in the workplace.

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