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The Cost of Primary Care Doctors


  • Sherry A. Glied
  • Ashwin Prabhu
  • Norman H. Edelman


This study uses a human capital model to estimate the societal cost of producing a physician service. Physician human capital consists of the underlying human capital (productivity) of those who become physicians and the job-specific investments (physician training) added to this underlying capital. The value of physicians' underlying human capital is estimated by forecasting an age-earnings profile for doctors based on the characteristics in youth of NLSY cohort participants who subsequently became doctors. Published estimates are used to measure the total cost (wherever paid) of investments in physician training. These data are combined to compute the societal cost per primary care physician visit. The estimated societal cost per primary care physician visit is much higher than the average co-payment per primary care service and generally higher than the current Medicare compensation rate per service unit The private return to primary care physician training is relatively low, in the range of 7-9%. At current levels of supply, the marginal social costs of primary care visits appear to be equal to or greater than marginal social benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Sherry A. Glied & Ashwin Prabhu & Norman H. Edelman, 2008. "The Cost of Primary Care Doctors," NBER Working Papers 14568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14568
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Bordo & John Landon-Lane, 2014. "Does Expansionary Monetary Policy Cause Asset Price Booms? Some Historical and Empirical Evidence," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Sofía Bauducco & Lawrence Christiano & Claudio Raddatz (ed.), Macroeconomic and Financial Stability: challenges for Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 19, chapter 3, pages 61-116 Central Bank of Chile.
    2. Michael D. Bordo & John Landon-Lane, 2013. "What Explains House Price Booms?: History and Empirical Evidence," NBER Working Papers 19584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michel Bordo & John Lando-Lane, 2013. "Does Expansionary Monetary Policy Cause Asset Price Booms? Some Historical and Empirical Evidence," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 710, Central Bank of Chile.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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