Navigation Links Reaps Mixed Reviews on Universal Healthcare

General surgeon salary survey shows 40 percent imagine negative income impact.

Alpharetta, GA (Vocus) October 3, 2008 -- Although the economy currently dominates both the news media and the presidential campaign, Americans still view healthcare reform as a top priority for the new president, according to recent survey results. But how do U.S. surgeons view the issue?

In its 2008 [general surgeon salary survey], physician recruitment firm asked how general surgeons thought universal healthcare would affect their personal incomes. Among close to 200 respondents, only 17 percent said 'positively.' While 43 percent predicted universal healthcare would have no effect on their incomes, another 40 percent predicted a negative effect.

"Autonomy is one of physicians' hot-button issues and many of them think universal healthcare would mean greater government control and bureaucracy," Senior Vice President Pamela McKemie said. "However, a growing number seem to think it's a policy whose time has come, regardless of how it affects them personally."

Respondents to the general surgeon salary survey offered a mix of perspectives on universal healthcare, including these:

  • "It will be based on Medicare and we will all lose money."
  • "We need it no matter what my income does."
  • "Income would likely diminish even more as doctors are expected to provide care to more people at a decreased compensation rate in order to fund universal healthcare."
  • "My taxes might go up, but I'm certain that the increased number of paying patients would more than compensate. Universal healthcare would be very good for the bottom line of most doctors."
Straining the Surgical Suite:
Earlier this year published physician survey results indicating that as much as 20 percent of the country's physician work force will stop practicing medicine if the U.S. implements universal healthcare under the new president. Additional analysis of the survey's 1,400 responses indicated that the vast majority of that 20 percent were surgeons, anesthesiologists or radiologists.

"As waves of baby boomers begin retiring over the next few years, the volume of surgeries is likely to skyrocket," McKemie said. "Since about a third of our general surgeons are age 55 or older, we need to be careful not to reduce their ranks even more through what we do to reform healthcare."

She noted that at least one study has predicted a 47-percent increase in surgery volume by 2020. The American Hospital Association recently reported that between 2000 and 2006, knee replacement surgery increased 65 percent and hip replacement surgery increased 21 percent.

Surgeon Salary Stagnation (or "Slippage"):
Sixty-two percent of general surgeon respondents to the physician recruitment firm's 2008 salary survey said their 2007 gross personal income was about the same as (29%), or less than (33%), their 2006 gross personal income. Twenty-one percent reported 2007 gross personal income that was less than 2006 income by 10 percent or more.

Overall 2008 annual compensation for general surgeon salary survey respondents averaged $284,078, roughly 97 percent of the average $292,104 for respondents to the 2007 survey. To see an overview of the complete general surgeon salary survey results, please visit

Regardless of compensation concerns, most 2008 general respondents (73%) said they would choose medicine as a career again if given the choice.

Seventy percent of responding general surgeons had been practicing for 10 years or more, 86 percent were male and 90 percent were board certified. While 42 percent of respondents were in private practice, 35 percent were employer-based and only 12 percent reported working on a locum tenens, or contract, basis exclusively.

Founded in 1995, is a full-service physician recruitment firm specializing in anesthesiology jobs, psychiatry jobs, radiology jobs, surgery jobs and CRNA jobs with U.S. hospitals, medical groups and community health centers. is part of the Jackson Healthcare family of companies. To learn more, visit


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