In the spring, leaves turn green, and executive compensation turns greener. The media has provided another set of stories about the inexorable rise of compensation for executives of non-profit hospitals, presented in order of the stories' appearance.
Westchester Medical Center
The Journal-News reported in April,
A Journal News analysis of salary data, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, revealed that 20 hospital administrators received increases in their total compensation for 2010, including one employee whose pay package jumped 18 percent.
The newspaper’s analysis of data for 2010, the latest year available, shows that 26 administrators at the medical center would have exceeded Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s limit of $199,000 a year for executive compensation. Cuomo signed an order, scheduled to take effect April 15, that restricts the amount of state money that nonprofit organizations can use toward salaries and benefits.
Overall, the medical center spent $11.8 million in compensation to 44 executives in 2010, during which three administrators resigned and three others had their titles downgraded to the director level. The executive payroll rose 11 percent between 2008 and 2010.
Administrators who received increases in their total compensation included CEO Israel, who earned the top salary of $1.3 million in total compensation; the chief financial officer; an executive vice president and several senior vice presidents.
However, the fortunes of the top executives were rising at a time of financial trouble for the institution:
That same year, the medical center laid off 130 workers, instituted a hiring freeze and announced an $18 million budget cut for the following year.
'There is no shared sacrifice, there is no appearance of a shared sacrifice,' said Jayne Cammisa, a union representative and a registered nurse in the hospital’s transplant unit.
Those who defended the executives' compensation sounded familiar themes:
Hospital boards rely on compensation committees, outside consultants and market analysis and documentation to justify how much they pay administrators. The medical center uses an outside firm to analyze compensation packages, which are based on market values, [Senior Vice President for Communications Kara] Bennorth said.Note that we briefly mentioned the CEO's compensation in this post.
The only way to keep the institution and be financially viable is you have to have top management,' [Chairman of the Board Mark] Tulis said.
In May, the Hartford Courant reported,
The health care system may be ailing, but newly compiled data show that compensation for top executives at Connecticut hospitals remains healthy.
Eighteen executives at the state's 30 hospitals made more than $1 million in 2009-10, according to information the hospitals reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
Some of the more notable examples included,
Hartford Hospital's outgoing chief executive officer, John J. Meehan, was the highest paid in Connecticut and one of the highest paid nationally. His compensation totaled $6.98 million – all but $1.1 million of it nontaxable and retirement benefits, according to the hospital.
In addition to Meehan, Connecticut's 10 highest paid administrators were two Yale-New Haven Health System executives, the departing CEOs at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Hospital of St. Raphael, the departing treasurer of Hartford Hospital, the treasurer of the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the presidents of Stamford, Yale-New Haven and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. All made more than $1.59 million in 'reportable' W-2 and 1099 miscellaneous compensation.
A few executives had significant 'non-reportable' compensation in addition to W-2 and 1099 pay. The outgoing president at William Backus Hospital in Norwich had $2.2 million in deferred compensation related to his retirement, for total pay of nearly $3 million, according to a C-HIT analysis of the data. The chief operating officer at the Hospital of Central Connecticut had $472,443 in reportable pay and $838,880 in other compensation, for a total of $1.3 million.
Again, there were complaints that executive compensation had nothing to do with the performance of the executives' organizations,
'I don't understand what the hospitals are getting for their money. Some of the highest paid are the worst performing,' said Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project in New Haven. 'The system isn't working for anyone – for the state, for the hospitals or for consumers.'
Note, however, that the system is working for the top hired executives.
In response to these complaints, the Courant cited the usual defenses of executive pay:
Others say the compensation reflects the complexity of the health care business, keen national competition for good leaders, and the uncertain future that executives face when they sign on for top-level positions in an industry undergoing enormous change. Pay needs to be competitive to attract and retain key executives, they say – even for nonprofits that are struggling to find their place.
'Hospital executives are responsible for extremely complex organizations,' said Michele Sharp of the Connecticut Hospital Association. In addition to managing advanced medical services and technology, a skilled staff and extensive physical plants, hospital CEOs are often responsible for an array of services beyond the hospital, such as primary care clinics, home health organizations and surgery centers. They work in a highly regulated environment and must comply with demanding standards in areas that range from patient safety and financial performance to institutional stability and community health, Sharp said.
'When you bring in exceptional talent, you can manage effectively and efficiently,' said Vin Petrini, senior vice president for public affairs atYale-New Haven Hospital. 'It's a very complicated and complex industry. We need to be thoughtful about how we manage and retain and recruit talent.'
Wake Forest Baptist
The Winston-Salem Journal uncovered the compensation of several local executives,
A commitment Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center made to Dr. John McConnell, its chief executive, when he was recruited led to a nearly 50 percent increase in his total compensation for fiscal year 2010-11, the center reported Tuesday.
McConnell was paid almost $2.5 million in total compensation, compared with $1.68 million for fiscal 2009-10.
The total included essentials such $25,560 for moving expenses and $9,568 for country club dues.
Other executives did well too:
Donny Lambeth, former president of N.C. Baptist Hospital, had a 36 percent increase in total compensation to $1.16 million. Lambeth now serves as president of Davie County Hospital and Lexington Medical Center. His salary dropped 11 percent to $537,997, while his bonus and incentive compensation rose 165 percent to $186,261.
Dr. Thomas Sibert, president of Wake Forest Baptist Health and chief operating officer, received a 2 percent increase in total compensation to $995,133, including $545,517 in salary and $166,027 in bonus and incentive compensation. Sibert took over his role in September 2010.
Edward Chadwick, chief financial officer, received a 32 percent increase in total compensation to $974,587. His salary rose 71 percent to $503,663 in salary, while his bonus and incentive compensation fell 42 percent to $200,000.
Dr. William Applegate, retired president of Wake Forest University Health Sciences and dean of its medical school, was paid $743,541 in total compensation, down 25 percent. His salary dropped 3 percent to $518,231, while his bonus and incentive compensation fell from $378,900 to $99,900.
Doug Edgeton, former president of Piedmont Triad Research Park, received a 38 percent decrease in total compensation to $655,048. His salary fell 1 percent to $484,360, and his bonus and incentive compensation fell from $361,600 to $111,700.
However, a Winston-Salem Journal article in April noted that the same CEO, Mr McConnell would be aggressively cutting costs and possibly laying off employees:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has told employees it is considering reducing its workforce as part of a major initiative aimed at improving patient outcomes at a lower cost.
The center confirmed Friday a memo sent April 2 by Dr. John McConnell, its chief executive, which addressed what the center is calling 'accelerated transformational initiatives.'
In a separate statement, the center said it is looking at expense-reduction opportunities that include 'energy conservation, cost savings through supply chain management, revenue-cycle improvements, efficiencies such as reducing length of stay, reduction in discretionary spending, and managed employment through attrition, retirements, eliminating duplication and process redesign.'"Managed employment" seems to be the latest circumlocution for layoffs.
The largess given to top executives at a time when lesser employees may be sacked was explained by trotting out the usual suspects,
Wake Forest Baptist said the center is a 'very complex organization that requires a special set of skills and experience to manage relationships with physicians and researchers, the university, its patients and community.'I wonder if "complexity" comes from a set of talking points, since it gets aired so often in this context.
Note that we discussed compensation given to Wake Forest executives the year before, and its relationship, or lack thereof to the quality of their leadership here.
There they go again. We have the latest additions to what has become a long series of examples of executive exceptionalism in health care organizations. Top hired executives, be they of for-profit health care corporations, or non-profit organizations, tend to be paid very well, even when their organizations perform poorly or are financially threatened.
The same rationales are cited repeatedly to justify their treatment. Executives are said to have very difficult jobs, Competitive pay is necessary to hire the brilliant people required. Left unsaid, however, is how difficult these managerial positions are in comparison to the demanding work and sometimes life or death responsibilities of health professionals, how brilliant executives are in comparison to such well trained professionals, and why the executives deserve competitive pay when other employees may be laid off. Perhaps the close ties of those making the arguments to the executives explains the questions they beg.
So it is time to say it again,.... Health care organizations need leaders that uphold the core values of health care, and focus on and are accountable for the mission, not on secondary responsibilities that conflict with these values and their mission, and not on self-enrichment. Leaders ought to be rewarded reasonably, but not lavishly, for doing what ultimately improves patient care, or when applicable, good education and good research. On the other hand, those who authorize, direct and implement bad behavior ought to suffer negative consequences sufficient to deter future bad behavior.
If we do not fix the severe problems affecting the leadership and governance of health care, and do not increase accountability, integrity and transparency of health care leadership and governance, we will be as much to blame as the leaders when the system collapses.