Physicians trading autonomy 'for the big bucks,' orthopedic surgeon says

Joel Cleary, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Grangeville, Idaho-based Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, joined Becker's to discuss the biggest threats to physicians and reimbursement issues. 

Editor's note: Responses were edited lightly for brevity and clarity. 

Question: What are physicians' biggest threats right now?

Dr. Joel Cleary: Themselves. … When the organization appears to be more important than the historical mission, the organization has become dysfunctional. And their greed. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is a good example. I find it amazing that the starting salary for an ortho surgeon is less than $500,000 a year. They gave up autonomy to insurance companies, politicians and bureaucrats for the big bucks.

Q: What are your biggest concerns regarding reimbursements right now?

JC: Perceptions by politicians that doctors make too much. As I used to say at Montana medical organization meetings, legislators have little sympathy for "poor" doctors when they make five to 10 times what a legislator makes.

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