Adjusted for cost-of-living differences, rural physicians have 13 percent more purchasing power than urban physicians. And while there are fewer physicians per capita in rural areas, the overall urban-rural disparity is likely due to an over supply of physicians (particularly specialists) in urban areas.

So says a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a respected nonpartisan policy research shop funded primarily by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Their findings dispel the widely held myth that low pay is an obstacle to recruiting docs to serve rural areas. The authors acknowledge that this higher purchasing power may be “needed to compensate physicians for other disadvantages of rural practice, including less control over work hours, professional isolation and a lack of amenities associated with urban areas.”

Some implications to consider:

● Future Medicare and Medicaid rate increases for rural docs should target those specific areas with inadequate patient access.

● Policy makers should invest in innovative ways to reduce the professional isolation and inflexibility of rural medical practice.

To read the full report, click here (PDF).