Clinton signs bill boosting benefits for federal doctors

In an effort to attract more doctors to public service, President Clinton last week signed into law a measure that permanently provides a special pay allowance for federal physicians. The bill (H.R. 207), sponsored by Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., also allows the special pay to be included in doctors' average pay for retirement purposes-a benefit military and Veterans Affairs physicians already have. Both VA and the Department of Health and Human Services have been granted special pay authority to offer doctors more competitive salaries. The bill permanently extends the Physicians Comparability Allowance (PCA) for federal civilian physicians, eliminating the need to reauthorize the language every three years. The allowance was enacted in 1978 to attract doctors to federal service. The PCA authorizes agency heads to give federal doctors pay allowances of up to $14,000 a year for those who have served two years or less, and $30,000 a year those who have worked in the government for more than two years. Doctors must agree to serve at least one year in government service to be eligible for the allowance.

According to calculations from Government and Retirement Benefits Inc. (GRB)-an employee benefits firm-a federal physician's retirement will increase, on average, $4,000 a year as a result of the new law. Dennis Boyd, executive director of the Federal Physicians Association, said GRB's analysis was based on information on government doctors collected by his organization. Interns and residents are not eligible for the pay allowance. According to the Federal Physicians Association, about 1,600 of 3,000 eligible physicians received the Physician's Comparability Allowance in 1999.

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