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‘New Normal’ For Health Care: Less Income?

May 13, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Remember a couple of weeks ago, when we mentioned that Medscape’s annual Physician Compensation Report found radiologists’ income bouncing up nicely in 2012?

Enjoy it while you can.

Spending on health care has been slowing. And signs increasingly indicate that health care, like so many sectors of the economy after the Great Recession, will have to adjust to a “new normal” that involves less money.

The authors of a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suspect so. The report concludes:

A modest economic recovery and increasingly cost-conscious payers may therefore place continued pressure on providers to find ways to operate more efficiently.

Translation: you’ll probably be paid less.

John Holahan, PhD, and Stacey McMorrow, PhD, of the Urban Institute wrote the report. Dr. Holahan directs the institute’s Health Policy Center, and Dr. McMorrow is a researcher at the center. The institute itself, founded in 1968 by the Lyndon Johnson administration, is a center-left think tank based in Washington.

The report suggests that the health care spending slowdown originated in two fundamental changes that predated the recession: a general decline in real personal income since 2000 and a shift in health insurance coverage from private, employer-sponsored plans to lower-paying Medicaid and Medicare.

And that doesn’t take into account the changes that the Affordable Care Act will bring. Nobody can definitively predict their scope or impact, but most experts, including Drs. Holahan and McMorrow, think the ACA’s effects will continue the downward pressure on reimbursements. “The ACA is already tightening Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers,” the report notes.

In an interview with DOTmed News, Dr. Holahan summarized the report thus:

“People have less money to spend on health care, and the insurance arrangements are not as comprehensive and rich as they were before. So it all affects their ability to pay, and the health community has to respond to that.”

Related seminar: UCSF Radiology Review: COMPREHENSIVE IMAGING

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