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Gender Pay Gaps Persist After Adjustment for Common Explanations

SALISBURY, NC – Popular explanations for why female physicians in the United States are reimbursed significantly less than their male counterparts might not hold water, according to a new study.

The research, published in the online edition of Postgraduate Medical Journal, adjusted for how hard physicians work, their productivity, and years of experience. Yet, the study — one of the largest carried out in recent times — still found that women physicians were annually reimbursed more than $18,500 less than their male colleagues in 2012.

The pay gaps were even greater across some medical specialties analyzed, especially nephrology, rheumatology, and pulmonary medicine, according to a study team led by researchers from the W. G. (Bill) Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina.

Their study employed objective and non-self-reported data from Medicare, focusing on more than 3 million reimbursement claims received by male and female physicians across 13 medical specialties in 2012.

Results indicate that, in an unadjusted analysis, the overall reimbursement differential for female physicians was $34,125.68 less than their male colleagues; women earned less than men in 11 of the 13 specialties.

After adjusting for factors that have been proposed to be the reasons for gender pay inequality — number of hours worked, productivity, and years of experience — the overall reimbursement differential was found to be $18,677.23 less for female physicians, compared to their male colleagues, and they still earned less in 11 of the 13 specialties.

The largest pay gaps were in nephrology, rheumatology, pulmonary medicine, and internal medicine, while closest to pay equality were found for hematology, medical oncology, and critical care, according to the report.

“Our findings suggest that the commonly held theories of why monetary disparities exist need to be revisited," study authors concluded. "After adjustment for work hours, years of experience, and productivity, female healthcare providers are still reimbursed less than male providers."