Arrival of Medicare actually boosted physicians' income
FREDERICTON, June 2, 2011 /CNW/ - Canada's doctors are very well paid,
and in fact, the arrival of the medicare system boosted their incomes,
a new study shows.
Jacalyn Duffin is a medical doctor and a professor at Queen's University
in Kingston, Ontario, where she holds the Hannah Chair in the History
of Medicine. She began the study after discovering that a gap in our
knowledge about how physicians' pay had evolved with the expansion of
Medicare in the 1960s, and more generally over time.
Dr. Duffin, who is presenting the study at the 2011 Congress of the
Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton, New Brunswick, says she
was able to compile information from a variety of sources, including
the census. With that information, she charted doctors' incomes in
Canada from 1850 to 2006, and made year to year comparisons.
What she found was that Canadian doctors have always earned
But she also found their income received a significant boost with the
advent of Medicare.
Before Medicare many patients - often as much as one-third - couldn't
afford to pay their medical bills.
Under Medicare, the doctors were able to collect for all the work they
did. And Dr. Duffin says that with the exception of the 1970s, when
incomes fell until Medicare rates were adjusted, their income has
continued to rise.
"Doctors are the top-earning profession in the country," she says. "And
their income has increased several-fold over that of the average
Dr. Duffin says she was also able to compare Canadian and American
physicians, and discovered doctors in the U.S. earn somewhat more their
The figures she has show that doctors in Canada generally earn more than
four times the GDP per capita, whereas for American doctors the number
is closer to six.
But she adds that Canadian doctors have lower overhead because they have
to pay less for things like malpractice insurance.
Dr. Duffin notes that even if we pay our doctors less, certain key
health indicators like life expectancy and infant mortality are better
in Canada than in the U.S.
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