August 22, 2011

Physicians Delaying Retirement

According to information released the first week of August 2011 by a physician recruiting agency, many physicians are delaying their plans for retirement. The number one reason is the current recession which greatly reduced their investment portfolios and net worth. Some are claiming they will not be able to retire and many are saying that they may work for many more years.

Of 522 physicians who completed an online survey, 52 percent said their retirement plans had changed since the onset of the recession. This group, which included physicians of all ages, 70 percent said they planned to work longer so they could make up for the recession’s effects on their investments. The story is much the same for a subset of physicians who, just before the recession, had planned to hang up their stethoscope within 6 years, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of them are postponing retirement on account of decreased nest eggs. Another four percent who are working longer cite family or personal reasons, and two percent blame healthcare reform.

A California physician recruiting agency says the report is correct and many physicians that had retired are reentering the job market and are very angry. Their investment losses and stagnant income is compounded by a depressed housing market which has left most underwater in the housing market making a problem in two mortgages and unable to sell their primary residence to save their retirement residences.

Another problem is by postponing their retirement, they are putting pressure on some physician groups with mandatory retirement ages. This leads to internal strife and conflicts. Most recruiting firms say this should not be a problem as physicians are short supply and many physicians that had planned to retire are looking to part-time positions.

Not mentioned by this article is concierge practice in which several physicians could share offices and practice part-time in this setting. The article did say that under the new law, positions are being created for older physicians who want to keep practicing medicine as a more leisurely pace. The accountable care organizations (ACOs) are generally formed by hospitals and these groups offer older physicians more flexibility than they would have had in solo practices.

Work plans may change for a generation of senior physicians; however, if the economy rebounds and investment portfolios fatten up. A recovery may set off an enormous wave of physician retirements. This is a worrisome prospect from a public health point of view as it will create a dramatic shortage of physicians.

You may read the article for yourself here.

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