Is There a Better Way to Pay Doctors?

Physicians' bills are inflating medical costs and distorting the profession. One hospital is trying to fix the system

Bill Cramer / Wonderful Machine for TIME

A doctor dictates notes into the digital archive.

Correction Appended: Oct. 19, 2009

It's hard to feel sorry for America's family doctors. Any job that averages $179,000 per year and lets you be your own boss is a job most folks wouldn't turn down. With the effort to rein in health-care costs increasingly framed as an unhappy trade-off in which insurers either slash benefits or raise premiums, some in Washington are beginning to ask a question long considered off-limits: Do we simply pay doctors too much?

The truth is, we pay them all wrong.

Doctors themselves could tell you that — particularly primary-care providers (PCPs), the...

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