CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Why Aren't They Talking About Immigrant Doctors?

Why Aren't They Talking About Immigrant Doctors?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 06:09

The NYT had an article that focused on efforts to get more immigrants with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This effort would have the effect of lowering the wages of workers in these fields, thereby saving companies money. However the piece does not mention immigrant doctors, the area where the country could most obviously benefit from increased immigration.

Pay for doctors in the United States averages more than $250,000 a year, roughly twice the pay of physicians in Europe. If immigration could bring the pay of U.S. doctors down by an average of $100,000 it would save the country close to $100 billion annually on its health care bill and lead to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in other areas. It is striking that the media almost never note this fact in the context of its discussion of immigration.

This NYT piece was also striking in its discussion of the immigration of STEM workers since it did not include the views of anyone who represents workers in these fields. One of the central issues raised by workers is whether they will be able to have free mobility when they come into the country or whether they will be tied to specific employers. The current H1-B system ties workers to specific employers, which denies them the bargaining power they would have if they could move between employers. It is remarkable that this issue was not even raised in this piece.

Comments (13)Add Comment
written by watermelonpunch, February 13, 2013 7:17
These are really good points.
Why are more people not addressing these questions?

Especially these people who claim Obamacare is flawed because a doctor shortage...
I've always thought the problem was more doctor allocation, but no matter...

If people are concerned about Obamacare causing a doctor shortage - then immigrant doctors would seem to be the perfect solution.

Unless people WANT a doctor shortage and want the health care system to fail?
But who on earth wants children & grandmas to die in the streets of easily curable & treatable illnesses? That would surely be madness, right?

Thank you for this. I've long felt the H1-B system is seriously flawed. But it's always been difficult for me to gauge exactly why. I think I'm starting to understand exactly what I don't like about the H1-B system.
written by LSTB, February 13, 2013 7:54
The Occupational Outlook Handbook puts physicians and surgeons median salaries at $166,400.

According to the Medical Group Management Association, physicians practicing primary care received total median annual compensation of $202,392, and physicians practicing in medical specialties received total median annual compensation of $356,885 in 2010.

General surgery343,958
Internal medicine205,379
Pediatrics/adolecent medicine192,148
Family practice (without obstetrics)189,402

Source: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthc....htm#tab-5

I'm guessing there aren't as many anesthesiologists as there are family practitioners, but still, Dean's right. They make a lot of money.
JJM, Low-rated comment [Show]
nurses too...anyway dean must not have had medical care lately...
written by pete, February 13, 2013 10:15
Unfortunately I have seen too much, first mom and now me. Much of the profession is imported. Anyone with a U.S. medical degree can get a job in the U.S., and a lot of these are clearly coming from India. Nurses, from Nigeria, Jamaica, Phillipines, etc. Increasing med school enrollment would work too, but then that is not the way unions and professional groups garner rents.

JJM missed the doctor union pieces in the WSJ last week. There are indeed unions. That is the funny thing about this recession, in the midst of heartbreaking unemployment there are clamours for HIGHER WAGES! OMG, haven't these folks read Keynes. With Bernanke refusing to do the Keynesian thing and inflate down their wages, they need to take cuts to get real wages down.
Doctors in the USSR.
written by Ralph Musgrave, February 13, 2013 11:09
Doctors in the old Soviet Union used to get the same pay as truck drivers. And that’s probably the correct free market price for doctors given the huge excess number of suitably qualified people trying to get into medical school.
Huh, "There's No Unions for Doctors."
written by James, February 13, 2013 12:16

Does he know what AMA stand for? Doctors have no advocacy or lobbying groups?

Anyone who read knows that the Medicare donut hole has NOT been enforced every single years since its passage more than 10 years ago - this directly affecting doctors' income.

In fact, Congress each year would take a collective effort to say, "We are ignoring the hole this year, AGAIN."

Seizing failure from the jaws of success ...
written by David, February 13, 2013 1:06
nurses too...anyway dean must not have had medical care lately...
written by pete, February 13, 2013 10:15
That is the funny thing about this recession, in the midst of heartbreaking unemployment there are clamours for HIGHER WAGES! OMG, haven't these folks read Keynes. With Bernanke refusing to do the Keynesian thing and inflate down their wages, they need to take cuts to get real wages down.

I agree with allowing inflation, which has the consequence of lessening current real wages. On the other hand, labor has been pretty much cut out of the productivity gains of the past 30 years; this is a consequence of corporate structure/governance as currently allowed by law. Conservatives can blame The Great Society on this type of behavior of corporate boards and CEOs who can't see beyond the tree there is a forest of finitely many trees. Cut down too many trees (take too much in profits and salaries) and soon they're out of business. But what do they care? They'll be sipping mai tai (virgin, in the case of the Romneys) in the Caymans.
Who hasn't read Keynes?
written by Calgacus, February 13, 2013 3:48
Pete: OMG, haven't these folks read Keynes. With Bernanke refusing to do the Keynesian thing and inflate down their wages, they need to take cuts to get real wages down.

You haven't read Keynes, Pete. Keynes is not about inflating to get real wages down. And Bernanke can't do much - Keynes was rightly skeptical about interest rates as a magical policy tool. Keynes is about grabbing the free lunch provided by non-inflationary government spending for full employment.
Nyt was for SOTU proposals before against them
written by JaaaaayCeeeee, February 13, 2013 6:34
The lead 2013 editorial titled "The President's challenge to Congress" opined that the country doesn't need endless austerity, gov contraction, deferred infrastructure, education and public works investment, no mobility for the poor, economic stagnation for the middle class, nor a choice between deficit reduction and government action to fix these problems. Then it opined that the enormous benefits President Obama's proposals would provide to the middle class and those hoping to enter it, will probably be snuffed out by politics.

Later today, a news article begins editorializing against President Obama's proposals: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02...ad.html?hp
First it reports that President Obama is promoting his AGENDA in a North Carolina town that broke for him, then editorializes that Republicans and some DC Democrats doubt his agenda would ever be enacted. This article also reports President Obama's proposed minimum wage increase is something Republicans swiftly rejected as a driver of unemployment, with no room to report on the effects on unemployment of past increases, which is editorializing, by printing debunked claims uncontested by relevant facts?

This news report continues on to counter what it calls the more persuasive parts of Mr. Obama's case, by reporting that the rest of President Obama's achievements are based on a kind of fiction; a fiction better explained by the anemic economy and the slowdown in health care costs (not attributed to Obamacare). Even the WSJ blames the surprising economic softness 4th quarter on the sharp fall in government spending and demand, which are not due to President Obama's agenda.
written by Ernie Bornheimer, February 13, 2013 8:16
I think unconscious racism is the reason the US doesn't allow more foreign doctors to work here. White, middle-class Americans don't want (scary, funny-talking, generally non-white) foreigners touching their precious bodies (and the bodies of their loved ones) in the intimate ways that doctors tend to do.
The percent of African-American, Mexican-American nurses is falling in California.
written by Rachel, February 14, 2013 1:14

That's what happens when the big hospitals try to save money by importing labor. The worst-off people get hurt the most.

The same will happen if we let Silicon Valley import labor from overseas. The disadvantaged will be the ones to lose opportunities.

But of course that's been going on in medicine for decades. And as the price of education goes up, it's going to get worse.
Thanks to a perfectly imperfect market!
written by Rick, February 14, 2013 3:35
“The matter with the medical profession is that the doctor is a private tradesman engaged in a competitive business for profit… It is difficult, nay, impossible for him to do otherwise. He is surrounded by the competitive system, and unless he conforms to the methods of warfare about him, he must go down… The whole history of medicine is a glorious refutation of the sophistry that competition for profit is important to human progress. The competitive system, which surrounds and harnesses medical advancement, hindered it from the beginning and retards it still” (Warbasse 1912)

written by Warren, February 14, 2013 4:33
http://economix.blogs.nytimes....ref=health The NYT also has this piece out now too on physician income. The comments are my favorite

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.