Pay and Benefits:

Comparative Analyses of Federal Physicians' Compensation

GGD-97-170: Published: Sep 15, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on pay and benefits of physicians employed by the federal government and in the private sector, to be used in considering reauthorization of the Federal Physicians Comparability Allowance Act (5 U.S.C. 5948). GAO did not attempt to make conclusions or recommendations on the sufficiency, size, or continued need for physician comparability allowances (PCA).

GAO noted that: (1) the average annual pay for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) physicians paid under title 5 was: (a) 17 percent less than the average for HHS physicians who received special pay under title 38; (b) 21 percent less than the average for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians paid under title 38; (c) 4 percent greater than the average for Commissioned Corps physicians; and (d) 23 percent greater than the average for physicians in the military; (2) the average pay for title 5 HHS physicians was $101,660; (3) for HHS physicians who received PCAs, average pay was $104,730 compared with $79,485 for those who did not receive a PCA or special pay under title 38; (4) the average pay for Department of Defense (DOD) physicians paid under title 5 was $86,760; (5) for DOD physicians receiving a PCA, average pay was 89,710; (6) for VA and HHS physicians who received special pay under title 38, average pay was $128,540 and $122,555, respectively; (7) average pay for physicians in the military (Army and Air Force) and the Commissioned Corps, both of whom were paid under title 37, was $78,250 and $97,770, respectively; (8) in general, physicians paid under titles 37 and 38 were eligible for and received more types and higher amounts of special pay than HHS and DOD physicians receiving PCAs under title 5; (9) the average PCA for HHS physicians was $15,760 and the average PCA for DOD physicians paid under title 5 was $12,505; (10) average special pay amounts for VA and HHS physicians receiving title 38 special pay were $39,585 and $38,950, respectively; (11) average special pay amounts for physicians in the military and the Commissioned Corps were $35,190 and $43,260, respectively; (12) for selected medical specialties, GAO comparisons of pay information from studies of private sector physicians' pay with the pay of federal physicians who were paid under titles 37 and 38 showed that private sector physicians were generally paid more; (13) in addition to basic pay and physicians' special pay, federal and private sector physicians were eligible for employer-provided nonwage compensation; (14) regarding ongoing efforts that affect or have the potential to affect physicians' pay, GAO identified two recent initiatives; (15) since November 1993, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has delegated authority to HHS, DOD, and the Department of Justice allowing them to provide title 38 special pay to their physicians; (16) as of May 1997, HHS was the only agency to have used this authority; and (17) VA is currently exploring the feasibility and appropriateness of linking physicians' pay with performance.

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