Radiology Rising Demand Falling Income
Highly paid Radiologists may not generate much sympathy but their world may be changing. The constant rise in their salaries seems to have hit a wall and indeed due to some changes in reimbursement rates they may actually have fallen recently
At a time when the cost of education is rising and in some states like California at a rapid rate, the ability to pay back the debt is falling. This means that some physicians must take into consideration what job they can afford to take right out of their Residency or Fellowship. Physicians have always been able to carry the burden of their long and expensive education, because they knew in the end their future earnings would cover the debt. What happens if in our haste to cut health care costs we destroy the ability of our top students to undertake this path.
The Slowing Economy and Aging Population
At the same time a study indicates that there is currently a shortage of diagnostic radiologists in the United States. The American College of Radiology's survey of hiring in 1998 measured the shortage at 600, but others see technology easing the shortage as radiologists are able to perform more procedures more efficiently.
The US is aging. Between 2010 and 2035, all age groups 70 and above will increase over 95%. This means there will be a greater demand for all health care services. Further, it is estimated that as many as one-third of today's practicing physicians will retire by 2020. There are about 30,000 practicing radiologists in the US.
The recession and massive job loss across the country has had a direct impact on the revenue stream to physicians. When people lose their job, they also lose their health care benefits and so access to health care. Further, the makers of high-tech imaging equipment may take a big hit should government insurance payments for such tests be reduced. Lower reimbursements may make hospitals reconsider buying the $1 million imaging machines.
The recent stock market collapse has had a major impact on older physicians retirement plans. Some Radiologists are postponing retirement because of the economy's impact on their retirement savings. But even a delay of a few years remedy the loss of experienced physicians. This postponement has resulted in fewer jobs being offered and graduating residents not finding as many opportunities as before. Residents rather than committing themselves to less desirable jobs now, are opting for Radiology Locum jobs and waiting before committing to full time employment. So for the short term, it appears there are fewer good jobs available.
Another uncertainty is the outcome of national health reform. If the health care reform actually works in increasing the enrollment into health care insurance then the long term the aging population and these increased numbers should push demand for services and therefore cost higher. However, no one yet knows what will happen to reimbursement rates from Medicare. Already there has been some lowering of rates they pay in Radiology affecting all specialties including Interventional Radiology jobs.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Truog founded of Physemp.com in 1994 as one of the first online physician employment sites for all specialties including: Radiology jobs, Interventional Radiology jobs and Locum Radiology jobs