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.