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How much did MDs in the 70s and 80s make?

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  • How much did MDs in the 70s and 80s make?

    I wanted to expand on a topic brought up in a separate thread.  I understand that salary surveys show that docs in the 70s and 80s didn't make much more money than they do now.  However, salary surveys are based on limited sources.  Anyone have a parent/relative/family friend who worked in the 70s-80s as a doc (in any specialty) that knows what their salary was (before or after adjusting for inflation)?

  • #2
    So you're looking for anecdote, not data?
    Helping those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street since 2011

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    • #3
      Correct.

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      • #4
        I have talked to ENT's and ophthalmologists who have said they had a higher salary in the 80s and 90s, not inflation adjusted.  But I'm with WCI, a few stories doesn't prove a point.  Survey data is more meaningful.  As he pointed out, this is probably the hayday for EM, and it's not bad for anesthesia.

        Pardon me while I go make some hay.

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        • #5




          I have talked to ENT’s and ophthalmologists who have said they had a higher salary in the 80s and 90s, not inflation adjusted.  But I’m with WCI, a few stories doesn’t prove a point.  Survey data is more meaningful.  As he pointed out, this is probably the hayday for EM, and it’s not bad for anesthesia.

          Pardon me while I go make some hay.
          Click to expand...


          I'm not trying to prove a point; it's just out of my own curiosity (and I'm sure others are curious too).  Not writing a research paper, so don't need data.  Further, data can be misleading as well, when you don't know where all the sources are from.  It's just interesting to hear how the numbers have changed (for example, if someone has a father who worked in private practice that made 400k in 1985, then dropped to 200k after adjusting for inflation in 2015).  It is also interesting to hear how much reimbursement for a particular procedure has tanked over the decades.

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          • #6
            I did the CPI calculator on the .gov website after the last article. It said 100k in 1990 is equivalent to 191k now. Inflation adjusted many types of phsyicians saw their wages decline until recently I think they started back up some. There also could be debate on numbers of patients/procedures for equivalent pay.

            Some specialties have done better, some worse. Interesting stuff.

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            • #7
              A gyn I talked to recently told me his highest income was in the early 90's at 1 mil and now is 300k and he is working harder.  This is just an anecdote of course.  But we all know that the TREND is definitely true.

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              • #8
                I am an ob/gyn who was working in the early 90s. 1 mill I guess would inflate to about 2 mill today.  Why is that person still working?  In fact he is working harder.  It makes no sense unless he did the same oil deal as the recent poster talked about.  I do know of one maybe two gyns who were making that kind of money.  Both of them founded large groups and made money off junior partners buy-ins. Also it used to be possible to make money off labs, home health etc prior to Starck laws.

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                • #9
                  I am also of the belief that we are currently in the "golden age of medicine".

                  In the first half of the 20th century, doctors were in the middle of the middle class.  We are now in the upper middle class.

                  I saw a study a few years back that showed that reimbursements for certain general surgery procedures in dollars ( not inflation adjusted) was highest in the  late 1990's.  However, I don't have the reference at hand.  However, that study didn't give physician net worth or net income.  Keep in mind that many of those doctors had student loans with 12% interest from the 1980's.

                  I heard stories about how pathologists made a fortune back then because they got paid for every lab that came through the hospital, etc. Other specialties had similar sources of income. However, if that were the case, there would be a lot of very wealthy doctors around now.  We would see them on the medscape surveys, with doctors in their 70's all with high net worth, but that's simply not the case.

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                  • #10
                    When I was in a FP residency in Wisconsin around 1988 we were told a busy FP was making around 100K.  After I completed my residency and a 4-year stint in the Air Force I interviewed with several groups in 1992, and most of the guarantees for starting FPs were around 80K.

                     

                    In my residency 85-88 I made 19, 20 and 21K.

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                    • #11
                      I know invasive and interventional cardiology procedures have reduced many folds. A diagnostic cath used to pay $1200, that then became 600 and is now 300. Nuclear studies in cardiology dont pay half as much as they used to. Hubby says old practices whose nuclear cameras, etc are paid for are still making some money off those equipments but new practices who are leasing or still paying off their equipment are barely breaking even. That also depends of course on utilization rates.

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                      • #12
                        Doesnt mean they didnt squander it away with reckless spending. We are not very known for our financial prowess...

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                        • #13
                          @ hatton:  he is NOT working as of late, because it just makes no sense for him to work, that's the point.

                          Agree that net worth for docs who are now in their 60s and 70s is not a good metric of incomes in the 80's and 90's as most physicians are not good at saving.

                          So are some people saying that it was NOT easier to make "the big bucks" 20-25 years ago than it is today?  Is there any data?  I honestly don't know.

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                          • #14
                            There is at least one salary survey I linked to the other day. I don't have a lot of data though.
                            Helping those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street since 2011

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                            • #15
                              I thought he was still working but at a reduced income. I think some avenues of income closed about the time I started in 1987.  MDs really owned labs and imaging centers and self-referred. The feeling was that this contributed to uneeded testing.  I think investment as a limited partner in hospitals and surgicenters survived because it is harder to increase your income by uneeded surgeries than labs. Of course now people just buy the equipment and use it in their office and this is legal and promotes large practices.

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