Wall Streeters aren't the only ones raking in big bonuses during tough economic times.
Hospital presidents and CEOs also collect fat bonuses and 'incentive payments,' even as health-care systems cry poverty, claiming they struggle to break even against government cutbacks, tightwad insurers and skyrocketing costs.
While warning of layoffs and slashed patient services, many hospitals shower their top execs and department heads with bonuses and perks. They include housing allowances, chauffeurs, first-class air travel, tuition for their kids and country-club memberships.
Under new IRS rules, the extras are disclosed for the first time in recently filed 2008 tax records obtained by The Post.
The filings for the city's biggest and most prestigious private, tax-exempt hospitals show at least a dozen CEOs get compensation of $1 million and up. Some also cash in early on million-dollar pre-retirement payouts while on the job.
Dr. Herbert Pardes, who runs the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and its health-care system -- the city's largest private hospital network -- received a $1 million bonus in 2008 on top of his $1.67 million salary.
The hospital has a 'pay for performance' philosophy but says even though Pardes met his goals, his bonus was smaller than 2007's to 'reflect the current external environment.'
But Pardes' compensation totaled $9.8 million in 2008 because he vested in a retirement plan that will pay $6.8 million when he leaves in 2011. He also received a $93,500 housing allowance and the use of a car and driver.
The Post article also listed two other hospital CEOs who got over $4.5 million in compensation, and several other top executives at other hospitals who got substantial compensation despite the hospitals' financial distress or accusations of unethical behavior. On the other hand, the CEO of the city's Health and Hospital Corporation, with a budget of $6.3 million, got only $291,000.
Note that Dr Pardes' total compensation was more than double the compensation for a Boston medical center CEO that I thought was so outlandish back in September, 2009.
So here is much more evidence about the continually inflating health care bubble. Not only do executives of big, for-profit drug, device, biotechnology and health insurance companies make seven and eight figure salaries, now it appears executives of ostensibly not-for-profit, charitable organizations can also make this much.
Is it possible that at least Dr Pardes' compensation was a fluke, related to a one-time retirement payment?
The answer appears to be negative. The New York - Presbyterian Hospital's 2007 US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form 990, which was organized somewhat differently and may have used somewhat different definitions than the 2008 form from which the Post reporters apprently got their information, showed Dr Pardes total compensation to be $4,736,824 plus a $1,433,761 contribution to employee benefit plans and deferred retirement plans in that year. In addition, in 2007, (apparently former) executive Vice President Michael A Berman, MD received $5,949,092 in compensation plus $31,830, current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steven J Corwin MD received $2,671,747 plus $455,304, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Phillis RF Lantos received $2,481,044 plus $336,284, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Kelly received $1,538,412 plus $271,641, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Cynthia N Sparer received $1,370,541 plus $307,259, Senior Vice President and Senior Legal Officer Maxine Fass Esq received $1,337,354 plus $257.06, Senior Vice President, Finance Dov Schwartzben received $1,314,960 plus $173,848, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Wilhelmina Manzano received $1,218,966 plus $159,555. In summary, in 2007, the medical center paid at least 10 current and former executives each substantially more than $1 million a year.
By my calculations, the medical center paid these ten executives over $26 million a year, approximately equal to 25% of the center's fund excess (e.g., profit equivalent), of slightly over$106 million. These ten executives received nearly 1% of the entire 16,850 employee institution's budget. Furthermore, note that in the medical center's 2007 expense statement, general and administrative expenses, over $675 million, made up about 24% of the center's total expenses.
So it appears that gigantic compensation for New York - Presbyterian Hospital executives, which is outsize both in comparison to the Hospital's fund excess and total budget, is part of a long-term trend
The Post quoted Brian Conway of the Greater New York Hospital Association with this excuse:
There are thousands of 20-somethings on Wall Street making millions who don't have anywhere near the responsibilities or skills of New York hospital CEOs.
This fits in our catalog of logical fallacies. It is an appeal to common practice. Of course, the particular practice to which Mr Conway appealed is the exaggerated executive compensation in finance that many believe was a cause of the global financial melt-down, aka great recession. One could also argue that not one Wall Street executive has the life and death responsibilities of the typical practicing primary care physician. I doubt Mr Conway would try to argue that Dr Pardes' job requires 40 times the skill of full-time practicing primary care or cognitive physician.
Instead, executive compensation for hospital CEOs seems best described as Prof Mintzberg described compensation for finance CEOs, "All this compensation madness is not about markets or talents or incentives, but rather about insiders hijacking established institutions for their personal benefit." As it did in finance, compensation madness is likely to keep the health care bubble inflating until it bursts, with the expected adverse consequences. Meanwhile, I say again, if health care reformers really care about improving access and controlling costs, they will have to have the courage to confront the powerful and self-interested leaders who benefit so well from their previously mission-driven organizations.