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Disparity in Medicare payments by gender and training track in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery

Published:August 30, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2021.08.032

      Background

      Gender disparities in medicine have been demonstrated in the past, including differences in the attainment of roles in administration and in physician income.

      Objective

      Our objective was to determine the differences in Medicare payments based on the provider gender and training track among female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeons.

      Study Design

      Medicare payments from the Provider Utilization Aggregate Files were used to determine the payments made by Medicare to urogynecologists. This database was merged with the National Provider Identifier registry with information on subspecialty training, years since graduation, and the geographic pricing cost index used for Medicare payment adjustments. Physicians with <90% female patients and those who graduated medical school <7 years ago in obstetrics and gynecology or <8 years ago in urology were excluded. The effects of gender, specialty of training, number of services provided, years of practice, and geographic pricing cost index on physician reimbursement were evaluated using linear mixed modeling.

      Results

      A total of 578 surgeons with female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery subspecialty training met the inclusion criteria. Of those, 517 (89%) were trained as gynecologists, whereas 61 (11%) were trained as urologists. Furthermore, 265 (51%) of the gynecology-trained surgeons and 39 (80%) of the urology-trained surgeons were women. Among the urology-trained surgeons, the median female surgeon was paid $85,962 and their male counterparts were paid $121,531 (41% payment difference). In addition, urology-trained female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery surgeons performed a median of 1135 services and their male counterparts performed a median of 1793 services (57% volume difference). Similarly, among gynecology-trained surgeons, the median female payment was $59,277 with 880 services performed, whereas male gynecology-trained surgeons received a median of $66,880 with 791 services performed, representing a difference of 12% in payments and 11% in services. With linear mixed modeling, male physicians were paid more than female physicians while controlling for specialty training, number of services performed, years of practice, and geographic pricing cost index (P<.001).

      Conclusion

      Although Medicare payments are based on an equation, differences in reimbursement by physician gender exist in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery with female surgeons receiving lower payments from Medicare. The differences in reimbursement could not be solely explained by differences in patient volume, area of practice, or years of experience alone, suggesting that, similar to other fields in medicine, female surgeons in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery are not paid as much as their male counterparts.

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