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THE AMA SAYS physicians don't make that much money after all. To prove it, the trade group is changing its math: In 1995, it will include the salaries of 86,468 medical residents when figuring the average doctor's salary. Residents earn $20,000 to $30,000 a year, so that should lower the average physician's $177,000 salary considerably. Above the resident level, there are 564,000 doctors. The American Medical Assn. says critics ignore years of low-paid training.

IN REALITY, the new formula is a public-relations dodge equivalent to including the subsistence stipends of graduate students when figuring the average university professor's salary. "You don't fix the problem of high salaries by adding in a new factor," says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen Health Research Group in Washington. Fiddling with the formula will only interfere with researchers' ability to track the average physician's income on an apples-to-apples basis, he says. Plus, rejiggering the math is unlikely to take the health-care-reform heat off specialists who earn much more than the average GP.Susan Chandler

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