Rural physicians being 'hunted into extinction' by income cuts

 As a rural family practice physician, Kerry Willis, MD, has seen huge income drops in the last few years. 

Dr. Willis, who practices in Beaufort, N.C., recently spoke with Becker's about compensation and what changes he hopes to see related to his income. 

Editor's note: This response was edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Question: How satisfied with your income are you currently? What changes do you hope to see related to your income?

Dr. Kerry Willis: As a rural family physician, my income is good but inadequate compared to other physicians with similar training and expertise. Because of discriminatory fee schedules by BCBS, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare and Medicaid itself, rural physicians are being hunted into extinction by the forces claiming to support them. 

Compensation to family physicians is less than the cost of living for the last 10 years and continues to decline as no requirements for costs of living exist in contracts. Since COVID-19, labor shortage and supply chain disruption have caused massive increases in overhead and labor costs without any concomitant increase in fees, even as a member of a risk-bearing accountable care organization, my net income was cut. 

The Democrat-controlled Congress and big-spending GOP cut spending on Medicare in the omnibus budget bill that spent money wildly on everything except healthcare for the elderly and physicians by more than 10 percent of my net profit from Medicare. Losing money in the face of 15-20 percent medical inflation and a labor crisis can't be real, but yet our throat was cut and our representatives just watched and were "upset." Personally, I'm thinking outrage was appropriate.

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