The ABR is Sorta Changing Its Fees

In recent years, the American Board of Radiology (ABR) has utilized a membership fee model, where–for example–those working towards an initial certification in diagnostic radiology would pay a $640 annual fee until passing the Certifying Exam. Since one takes the Certifying Exam 15 months after finishing residency, that has meant recent diplomates have paid a specialty tax of around 1% of their gross income for a total of five years before enjoying the privilege of paying a mere $340 per year for MOC forever.

The fee schedule looked like this:

To illustrate, here’s my payment history (the annual fee actually increased a bit during my training because money).

As of September 2021, ABR has moved to “an exam fee model.” How does that look? Well, a one-time $640 application fee followed by a $1280 Core Exam fee and a $1280 Certifying Exam fee.

It doesn’t require a doctorate to note that the total cost for initial certification is the same: $3200.

That fee continues to put radiology in the highest echelon of medical specialties in terms of board costs, as enumerated in this 2017 paper (which incidentally undercounted the radiology costs).

What has changed is that this fee structure is now standard across other exams and is resulting in a decrease in the (otherwise ludicrous) subspecialty exam fees.

You see, until now, the much shorter half-day CAQ exams actually cost the most! As above, you can see I paid $3,280 this spring for the privilege of spending a morning taking a poorly formulated exam to pseudo-prove that I can totally do the thing I already do every day. That’s more than the cost of the combined total of the much, much bigger Core and Certifying Exams.

But, as of this September 17, 2021 update, it’s merely the same $640 application fee + $1280 exam fee for a total of $1,920 (a savings of $1,360!).

Of course, before you get any warm fuzzies about their generosity, keep in mind that the CAQ exams comprise a relatively small proportion of ABR revenues since only ~200 people take them every year, and, meanwhile, MOC revenues continue to grow year after year. The ABR, per its internal narrative and official documents, has recently been operating at a loss.

Thankfully, they have some retained earnings on hand to mitigate the red.

Leave a Reply