Wisconsin is second best state for physicians, new national ranking finds

By Michael Carroll Wisconsin Source

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  • April 26, 2019

SOURCE: Wisconsin Watchdog

Wisconsin ranks the second best state for doctors to practice in, according to a new national study, but a state physicians’ group said the analysis tends to run counter to its recent surveys.

The website WalletHub.com, which published a study titled “2019’s Best & Worst States for Doctors” this past week, found that Wisconsin is 12th in “opportunity and competition” for doctors and fourth in terms of the state’s “medical environment.”

The “opportunity and competition” section refers to criteria such as doctors’ annual wages, hospitals per capita, and what percentage of the state population has health insurance. “Medical environment” includes the quality of hospitals, hospital safety, physician assistants per capita and malpractice insurance rates.

“In Wisconsin, physicians have some of the highest average annual wages, 93.5 percent of the population is insured and the share of employer-based health insurance is almost 53 percent,” Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, told Watchdog.org in an email. “Thus, the state is the very attractive for doctors.”

Wisconsin also requires doctors to get continuing medical education credits, and its malpractice insurance rates are favorable compared to the other states, according to Gonzalez.

“The malpractice payout is the smallest nationwide, and the annual malpractice liability insurance rate is the third lowest,” she said. “These all speak to the quality of the state’s medical environment.”

In other criteria examined in the WalletHub study, Wisconsin doctors ranked sixth for average annual wage, but the state came in 37th in terms of hospitals per capita. Wisconsin ranked 23rd for its share of medical residents who remain in the state (45.2 percent) and first for the quality of its public hospital system.

And the share of Wisconsin hospitals receiving “A” grades was 32.73 percent, making it the 22nd best state in that category.

Nationwide, the study found physicians represented the highest paid occupation last year, with a median pay of $195,000 per year and the number of job openings for doctors reaching more than 3,000. But the profession continues to face challenges, according to the report.

“Health-care reform, the rise of branded hospital networks and the retirement of baby boomers are all complicating the lives of doctors,” the analysis said.

The Wisconsin Medical Society’s president, Dr. Molli Rolli, however, said the study’s results may not tell the full story about conditions doctors work under in Wisconsin.

“These results are intriguing, in part because they run counter to survey results we have seen recently on physician satisfaction in Wisconsin,” Rolli told Watchdog.org in an email. “Physicians are generally less satisfied than they used to be, and Wisconsin physicians tend to feel more stressed about their work than physicians in other states.”

She didn’t dispute the pay rank and other numbers in the study but stressed that they need to be put in context.

“While these salary and other numbers are interesting, it would seem that they’re probably only part of the equation for what affects physician satisfaction (in Wisconsin),” Rolli said.

Eric Borgerding, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, attributed Wisconsin’s high ranking in the WalletHub analysis to public policies the state has put in place.

“In Wisconsin, we’re leveraging public policy to help foster better health care, and it’s working,” Borgerding said in an email to Watchdog.org. “Wisconsin consistently ranks as having one of the best and safest health care systems in the country. This performance, and now reputation, is attractive to physicians.”

Part of the state’s attractiveness to doctors has to do with creating a fair medical malpractice system that he said protects the treatment decisions of both hospitals and doctors in the courtroom.

“These types of policies are important when recruiting physicians to come to Wisconsin, especially from states where ads for trial lawyers touting mega malpractice payouts are seemingly ubiquitous, even in public restrooms,” Borgerding said.

Health coverage rates in Wisconsin are another advantage the state has in attracting physicians, he said.

“In fact, we have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, which leads to greater access to care,” Borgerding said. “This is largely due to public policies we’ve enacted to make health insurance coverage available and more affordable to every person in the state.”

The state’s health facilities have also pursued educational opportunities and technologies that help make those in health care professions more effective at what they do, he said.

“Wisconsin is also investing in medical education, including expanding our medical school capacity and greatly increasing our post-graduate residency opportunities,” Borgerding said. “Once out of school and in full practice, we are streamlining and expediting licensure for physicians so they can take care of patients in multiple settings using the latest in telehealth technology.”