Canada's doctors are well-paid, study shows

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 better-than-average incomes.

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 Canadian."

Dr. Duffin says she was also able to compare Canadian and American physicians, and discovered doctors in the U.S. earn somewhat more their Canadian counterparts.

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.

Get more from the 2011 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences brings together scholars, graduate students, practitioners, and policy-makers to share groundbreaking research and examine the most important social and cultural issues of the day. This year's Congress is co-hosted by the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University and runs from May 28 to June 4.

The Congress program includes original research from across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, providing a great collection of expert sources and innovative story leads. If you are interested in accessing the latest research in the social sciences and humanities, please contact us to be added to our mailing list.

SOURCE Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

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