Professional fees push doctor salaries much higher than $47.50/hour

The debate goes on about how much a doctor should make for her services. Healthcare realist says that $47.50/hour for a six-hour surgery is just a convenient talking point with no connection to reality.

As usual, the author cherry picks numbers which make his or her argument look good. If we are in agreement with the numbers , then one of two things must be true: there are no anesthesiologists working (because no one could afford to be one) in the United States or the financial impact of low reimbursement is surreptitiously overcome through other ancillary billing.

In no world in which we live does an anesthesiologist actually earn $47.50 per hour because such poor reimbursement does not cover costs. The physician is also paid from the thousands of dollars under ‘professional fee’ which is billable and the hospital and/or physician can charge higher costs to the patient as a “co-pay” of sorts. A hospital may be required to treat a patient in emergency rooms for life-threatening cases, but they are not required to do so free of charge. In the same vein, hospitals are not forbidden from charging patients for other ancillary costs to cover the cost of the admission.

To completely debunk the entirety of the original article, the median salary of an anesthesiologist is reported to be $290,000 (source:, Money.cnn, multiple others).


If a physician was truly reimbursed at $47.50 per hour, yet earned 290K, that would mean the physician worked 6105 hours in a calendar year (6,000 hours is a 120 hour work week, every week!). So either physicians are paid through other mechanisms, or the conclusions of the article are based on misleading, cherry picked data designed to have a WOW-factor but doesn’t pass the test of common sense. That’s because there is a BIG difference between reimbursement rate and hourly wage.

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