The latest survey data from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)calculates that primary care physicians earned an average of $182,322 in 2007. Specialty physicians overall earned $332,450…nearly twice as much as primary care docs.

Year-on-year, specialty physicians’ compensation rose .31% adjusted for inflation (3.16% without inflation).

Primary care doctors’ compensation increased 3.35% over inflation, or 6.3% without inflation. While it appears that primary care physicians gained marginally more as a percent than specialists, this increase followed several years of flat or declining comp.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: When policy makers consider health reforms, such as implementing pay-for-performance and the medical home concept, it’s important to stare numbers like these down. A fair question: “Should specialists garner nearly twice what primary care doctors earn in the U.S. health marketplace?” What is the value of primary care vs. specialty care?

One doctor’s pay-for-performance incentive may become another’s marginal income decline. This will not be a trivial issue in the coming years of health reform and remodeling care business models toward a health system, away from the sickness mode.