We think surgeons make 600 percent more than they actually do

at 04:57 PM ET, 06/06/2012

That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Arthroplasty. The study had 1,120 knee and hip replacement patients take a guess at how much the surgeon who performed the procedure had made. They also had patients suggest what they thought the surgeon should have been paid for the procedure. Here, in chart form, is what they found:
(The Journal of Arthoplasty)

Hip replacement patients thought their doctor should be paid $14,358 for a total hip replacement and estimated that Medicare was paying out $8,212 for the procedure. The actual amount that Medicare paid out? A paltry $1,375.

Right now, the average orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint surgery makes an annual salary of $605,953. If the average surgeon made what these patients thought he ought to, some rough calculations show his salary would be an impressive $63 million a year.

This could be Americans relying on what they know about doctors: They tend to have much higher salaries than the rest of us. Physicians are the best-represented occupation among the top 1 percent of earners in the United States. It could also speak to the immense value we put on our own health care. When it comes to treating whatever ails us, there’s often little limit to what we think should be paid.

(h/t: Freakonomics)

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