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The Effects of Socialized Medicine on Doctors' Salaries

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The U.S. is one of the relatively few developed countries that doesn't have some type of a socialized medicine system for its citizens. It does have a socialized medicine system for members of the military, but with the exception of a few city-owned hospitals, nearly all health facilities are private, for-profit or nonprofit enterprises. Families and individuals access health care through private or public health insurance programs. Doctors in health care systems such as the U.S. earn significantly more on average than doctors in socialized health care systems.

Socialized Medicine

The term socialized medicine has become politically charged in the U.S., and a great deal of misinformation has been spread about socialized medicine systems. In a socialized medical system, the government takes a primary or sole role as the health care provider for its citizens. Tax revenues pay for hospital construction, medical research and doctors' and nurses' salaries. While medical research innovation tends to have limits in socialized medicine systems, most deliver a reasonably high standard of heath care for much less than the U.S. system. Health care cost an average of $8,233 per person in the U.S. in 2012, compared to $3,268 per person among other developed countries. Furthermore, the U.S. came in last among seven major developed countries in a 2010 Commonwealth Fund study comparing health care systems.

Health Care as a Basic Right

People in the U.S. don't consider health care as a basic human right, as they do in Europe and most of the rest of the developed world. Most citizens of European countries believe that access to decent health care is a basic right, like the right to vote or the right to free speech, and express puzzlement at the fee-based and patchwork employer health care insurance system in the U.S. Many express disbelief when they learn that you must be completely indigent to qualify for the bare-bones Medicaid government insurance plan, and that millions of Americans don't have any health insurance.

U.S. Doctor Salaries

U.S. doctors earned a median salary of more than $208,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those employed in outpatient care centers earned the most, on average, taking in a salary of $228,700. Specialist U.S. physicians, however, earned significantly more than family practice or internal medicine practitioners. The BLS reports that U.S. surgeons earned an average salary of $251,650 in 2020. A specialist physician in the U.S. earned an average of more than $400,000, according to the peer-review journal "Health Affairs."

Doctor Salaries in Countries with Socialized Medicine

Doctors in countries with socialized medicine typically earn less than U.S. doctors. According to "Health Affairs," primary care doctors in both Canada and Germany, for example, took in an average salary of over $200,000 in 2020, and specialists earned more than than $220,000. Doctor salaries in France are even lower, with primary care physicians earning an average salary of around $150,000 and specialists coming in above $150,000.


Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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