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  • Disparity in Clinical Activity and Medicare Payments: Male vs. Female Ophthalmologists

    By Lynda Seminara and selected by Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, March 2017

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    Although gender-related salary dif­ferences have been studied in many medical specialties, comparisons of the clinical activity and collections by male and female ophthalmologists are lack­ing. Reddy et al. examined associations between gender and compensation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for outpatient care in a 2-year retrospective study of more than 16,000 ophthalmologists. The authors found that both CMS earnings and clinical activity were lower for female ophthalmologists.

    Nearly 20% of the study population was female. In 2012, the first year of the study, female ophthalmologists collected an average of $0.58 for every dollar received by male ophthalmologists (95% CI, $0.54-$0.62), and their medi­an earnings were slightly lower ($0.56 per male-earned dollar). In 2013, mean and median income disparities between genders were similar to those of the preceding year.

    The mean payment per charge was the same for men and women: $66 in 2012 and $64 in 2013. A strong correla­tion was found between CMS collections and clinical activity. Medicare received fewer submissions from females than males in 2012 (median, 1,120 vs. 2,055 charges, respectively) and in 2013 (me­dian, 1,141 vs. 2,078 charges, respec­tively). Moreover, a comparison of men and women adjusted for similar clinical activity showed lower remuneration for women. Among ophthalmologists with the highest collections in each study year, women were underrepresented.

    The authors found that the pay gap identified in this study is markedly greater than that in other medical spe­cialties, and they anticipate that their findings will promote introspection and discussion among men and women in the field. They concluded that more research is needed to determine causes of the gender disparities, to address the obstacles faced by women, and to strive for equity throughout the specialty. (Also see related commentary by Ruth D. Williams, MD, in the same issue.)

    The original article can be found here.