Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Million Dollar Plus Hospital CEO Compensation: "It Is What It Is" or What the Board Says It Is?

Health care leaders' compensation has again been in the news. Below are highlights from stories about four medical centers, emphasizing the magnitude of executive compensation, how it is related, or not to hospital and executive performance, and whether and how the organizations' boards chose to justify it. The medical centers are in alphabetical order.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
In tax documents released Friday, Jeffrey Romoff, president and CEO of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, received $4.01 million in salary, bonuses and benefits that year.

Other top earners at UPMC include neurosurgeons Ghassan Bejjani, $2.37 million in salary and benefits, and Richard Spiro, $2.23 million; cardiothoracic surgeon James Luketich, $1.96 million and executive vice president Elizabeth Concordia, $1.88 million.

In summary, UPMC has a four plus million dollar CEO, and a nearly two million dollar executive vice president.

Hospital/ Executive Performance

None of the articles I found on these executives' pay juxtaposed information on their or their institutions' performance.

A Pittsburgh Business Times article summarized the medical center's recent financial results:
Strength in outpatient revenue, insurance premiums and hospital admissions helped drive operating income to $313 million for the third quarter at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a 75 percent increase from $179 million a year earlier, according to financial results released Friday.

UPMC’s operating margin still trails the 4.1 percent of other institutions with an AA bond rating....

However, there have been recent concerns about ethics and quality at the institution.

Another Post-Gazette article revealed how relatives of top leaders seem to gain well-paid positions within the system:
particularly at UPMC, gainful employment extends to other branches of the family tree.

Mr. Romoff's daughter, Rebecca Kaul, was paid $388,659 in fiscal year 2010 for her work as president of UPMC's Technology Development Center. The center "is helping develop the next generation of information technology at UPMC," said spokeswoman Susan Manko.

Ms. Kaul's salary jumped from the $264,274 reported for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, an increase that Ms. Manko said was the result of a sale of a computer-assisted coding product joint venture 'at a substantial return on investment at which time Ms. Kaul received certain compensation based on the terms of the sale of the company.'

She added that, 'Mr. Romoff was not involved in the decisions pertaining to this transaction.'

According to the tax document, Mr. Romoff's former son-in-law by another daughter, Scott Gilstrap, was paid $236,347. He worked with grants and services contracts before leaving UPMC in December 2009.

Kathleen Pietragallo, sister-in-law of UPMC board member and attorney William Pietragallo, received $88,646 working in a laboratory at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. Mr. Pietragallo's brother, Louis Pietragallo, is a medical oncologist for UPMC who was paid $613,082, according to the tax return.

And Scott Cindrich, son of UPMC's former chief legal officer, Robert Cindrich, received $138,618 as legal counsel for UPMC, according to Ms. Manko.

Also listed on the UPMC return is Anna Roman ($288,696), senior vice president for the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, who is the wife of University of Pittsburgh Physicians board member and UPMC pathologist George Michalopoulos.

The University of Pittsburgh Physicians is a multispecialty practice plan that employs UPMC physicians who are on the faculty of the Pitt School of Medicine and also care for patients and train residents in UPMC facilities, Ms. Manko said.
Note that we discussed questions of favoritism towards relatives of top leaders at UPMC here.

Also, Dr Scot Silverstein just posted on a major quality problem at UPMC, the transplantation of an organ from a hepatitis C positive donor.

To summarize, the medical center is making a lot of money, but its operating margin may not be has high as some of its peers. There are questions about nepotism amongst the leadership, and there is a current serious concern about the medical center's transplant program.

The Board's Justification

There was no recent reporting on this.

Valley Medical Center

This hospital is in Renton, Washington.


Per King5 News:
The chief executive officer of the hospital, Rich Roodman, is the highest paid public employee in the state of Washington. Last year he made a base salary of $615,000. He also collected a bonus of $201,201 for meeting performance goals. On top of that he was paid $263,335 in a retention payment.

In total, Roodman earned $1,134,837 in 2010 to run Valley Medical Center, which is part of King County Hospital District No. 1.

Note that
Roodman makes about 40 percent more than the chief executive officer of University of Washington Medicine and more than double what the executive director of the University of Washington Medical Center earns.

The reporters found it's not just the CEO, but all top managers at Valley Medical Center who pack home healthy paychecks.

Paul Hayes, the executive vice president, made $588,249 last year, which included a bonus of $154,275 for meeting performance goals.

The senior vice president of medical affairs, Kathryn Beattie, made $489,479. Those figures outpace the top boss at renowned Harborview Medical Center, which is also funded by tax dollars.

The in-house attorney for Valley Medical Center, David Smith, pulled in $352,196 in 2010, which makes him the highest paid public lawyer in the state. Smith makes about two-and-a-half times what Attorney General Rob McKenna is paid.

In summary, the CEO of a relatively small, public hospital made over $1 million, and several executives made over $350,000.

Hospital/ Executive Performance

Controversy over money isn't new to Valley Medical Center. Four years ago the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) fined CEO Roodman $120,000 after they found the hospital illegally spent tax dollars on mailings, postage and consultants to sway voter opinion on ballot measures in 2005 and 2006.

The PDC called it the biggest case ever involving a public agency misusing taxpayer dollars for a campaign. Valley Medical Center called it a misunderstanding.

In 2009 the Washington State Auditor’s Office found Roodman collected a troubling $1.7 million retirement payment that year, on top of the $900,000 salary he earned in 2009. The auditor found the commissioners authorized this payment 'without explanation or public benefit.' The auditor also recommended Valley Medical Center should 'avoid including similar provisions in future contracts.'

State authorities have questioned the ethics and legality of actions apparently authorized by the hospital's top leadership.

The Board's Justification

Board president Sue Bowman did speak with KING 5 by telephone. She said the compensation levels are important to stay competitive. They don’t want to lose top talent to other hospitals.

'I don’t know why Rich’s [CEO] pay is an issue? Commissioner Hemstad brings it up over and over again. I told him, 'Anthony, it is what it is,'' said Bowman. 'I don’t think the five-member board needs to keep focusing on compensation. What are we doing for the community? That’s what’s important.'

Bowman also said the board carefully considers research presented to them by outside consultants and attorneys before voting on CEO compensation. Milliman, a healthcare compensation consulting firm, provides the hospital with a full analysis of market comparative data every other year. They consistently find Valley Medical Center’s pay structure is right on target.

John Hankerson, principal and strategic rewards practice leader of Milliman, wrote a memo about his findings to Roodman and Bowman dated February 9, 2011.

'We have consistently found that base pay and total cash compensation have been well aligned with [hospital goals] and that the magnitude of the incentive plan is consistent with other healthcare organizations that are striving to improve performance and quality patient care,' wrote Hankerson.

'We defined the appropriate market [comparable salaries] as ‘where VMC [Valley Medical Center] might recruit executive talent from or where it might lose executive talent to.’ In that light we have included such local organizations as Evergreen, Overlake, Virginia Mason to name just a few,' wrote Hankerson. 'In our opinion, the current levels of incentives used at VMC are appropriate and consistent with best practice as well as smart management.'

However, note that:
Senator Cheryl Pflug, the ranking minority on the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee, doesn’t think public hospitals should be basing salaries on what non-profit and for-profit institutions pay.

'They pick and choose who they compare themselves to. A much more appropriate comparison would be the University of Washington,' said Pflug.

Note that the chair of the hospital board first tried to give the impression that the executives' compensation was a natural phenomenon ("it is what it is,") rather than set by the board. Then it appeared that the compensation was set partially by referring to pay at clearly dissimilar institutions which generally pay more than public hospitals. Finally, although the implication was that high levels of compensation were justified by the performance of the executives, no specifics about that performance was provided, and certainly the recent questions about the ethics and legality of the executives' decisions were ignored.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center


The Winston-Salem Journal reported:
Dr. John McConnell, the system's chief executive, was paid $1.68 million in total compensation for fiscal 2009-10, compared with $764,797 for fiscal 2008-09. McConnell took over as chief executive — a new position — in October 2008.

McConnell was paid $831,288 in salary for fiscal 2009-10, as well as $266,667 in bonuses and incentives, and $115,661 in other reportable compensation. He also received $441,589 in retirement and other deferred compensation.

In fiscal 2008-09, McConnell was paid $133,333 in salary, $140,000 in bonuses and incentives, $38,564 in other compensation and $440,105 in deferred compensation.

Donny Lambeth, the president of N.C. Baptist Hospital, had a 29 percent increase in total compensation to $849,521. His salary was raised 20 percent to $604,495, while his bonus and incentive compensation decreased 37 percent to $70,030. He had $136,459 in retirement and other deferred compensation.

Edward Chadwick, the system's chief financial officer, received $734,282 in total compensation, including $294,218 in salary and $350,000 in bonus and incentive compensation. He took over in his role in July 2009.

Besides McConnell, the top executives listed for Wake Forest University Health Sciences were Dr. William Applegate, president of the division and dean of its medical school; Dr. Thomas Sibert, its president and chief operating officer; and Doug Edgeton, president of the Piedmont Triad Research Park.

Applegate, who is retiring from both posts June 30 to focus on his geriatrics practice and research, received a 38 percent increase in total compensation to $996,706. His salary was raised 4 percent to $534,843 in salary, while his bonus and incentive compensation rose from $115,000 to $378,900.

Sibert received $974,188 in total compensation, including $266,654 in salary, $550,000 in bonus and incentive compensation and $112,390 in other reportable compensation. Sibert took over his role in September 2010.

Edgeton received a 44 percent increase in total compensation to $906,202. His salary was raised 7 percent to $491,391, while his bonus and incentive compensation rose from $102,200 to $361,600.

In summary, the CEO made over $1.5 million, and other leaders made from just under three-quarters to just under $1 million.

Hospital/ Executive Performance

There was nothing in the article above or in the news media about the performance of the executives or the hospital.

The Board's Justification

Per the Winston-Salem Journal:
Wake Forest Baptist said in a statement that it has a 'very rigorous system' to determine and approve its executive compensation packages. It has an external compensation consultant provide comparable data from similar health-care institutions, such as Duke University Health System, UNC Health Care and the University of Chicago Medical Center.

The Wake Forest Baptist system said that as one of 130 academic medical centers in the United States, 'there are few executives with the required skill set to manage and provide leadership for an integrated (center) such as ours.'

'Wake Forest Baptist's executive-compensation packages are fiscally responsible, appropriate for the marketplace and an essential part of the effort to recruit and retain skilled executives and visionary leaders for the medical center,' the statement said.

According to the Triad Area Business Journal:
'Recruitment and retention of the capably skilled executives is key to keeping Wake Forest Baptist fiscally sound and appropriately managed so we can continue to be a primary medical resource for patients in our community and our region,' the health system said in a prepared statement.
Again, much was made of process that compared the executives' compensation to that of other institutions. Their compensation was apparently based on the assertion that they were all "skilled and visionary," without any specifics provided to back it up.

West Penn Allegheny Health System


Again, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Christopher Olivia, ... at West Penn Allegheny Health System, received total compensation worth $1.91 million.
At West Penn, neurosurgeon Hae Dong Jho received $1.39 million in compensation in 2009 and Roy Santarella, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for the health system, received $1.25 million.

In summary, the CEO received nearly $2 million, and the executive vice president $1.25 million.

Hospital/ Executive Performance

Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The region's No. 2 hospital network is losing money, but West Penn Allegheny Health System's board of directors gave its CEO a 40 percent bonus, according to tax documents released on Friday.

More specifically,
West Penn Allegheny Health System reported an operating loss of $89.9 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. From July to December, it lost an additional $26.8 million, a drop officials attributed to $12 million in employee severance packages, extra consulting fees and falling inpatient volumes.

In a bid to improve its financial position, the system is consolidating many of its services at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side. Last year, it shut down its emergency room at Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue and plans to do the same at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield on Dec. 31.

The system's officials have said they expect to lay off up to 400 workers this year.

In summary, the hospital is losing a lot of money, and likely will be laying off a lot of workers.

The Board's Justification

Kelly Sorice, a hospital system spokeswoman, declined to comment on the bonus.


CEOs at even small medical centers in the US can now expect to receive more than $1 million a year in compensation.  Those at larger institutions may get several millions a year.  Other top executives can now expect proportionately high compensation.  Thus, being a top executive at a medium or large hospital now practically guarantees becoming rich. 

Worse, there seems to be no correlations among compensation and performance of the executives or the hospitals.  Executives at hospitals that are losing money, having quality problems, or criticized for unethical behavior still can make this much.

The boards that are supposed to exercise stewardship over these institutions do not seem to feel the need to justify the money they hand to executives in any detail.  They almost never seem to feel that their own executives are anything less than above average, despite facts that might cast doubt on this assumption, and almost always seem to feel that their executives are entitled to be paid at least as well as their peers.  This suggests at best a lack of critical thinking by board members, and at worst, crony capitalism.

Making hospital leaders feel entitled to make more and more regardless of their or their institutions' performance seems to be a recipe for "CEO Disease," leading to disconnected, unaccountable, self-interested leaders.  The increasing prevalence of CEO disease in health care may explain why costs keep increasing, access keeps declining, and quality and safety are stagnant. 

So, as I have said before,.... 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.


Afraid said...

In comments made to the board of a recently bought hospital, UPMC's CEO said "Competition, which is at the heart of a capitalistic society, will reduce prices."

This is astounding hubris coming from the system that has a virtual monopoly on healthcare in Western PA.


Anonymous said...

After reading this post I could not help but think of this WSJ Health Blog post:

May 25, 2011, 2:43 PM ET
Reader Consult: Does the Culture of Medicine Enable Bad Behavior?

By Katherine Hobson

Has medicine simply reached the point where physical intimidation, undermining authority, and even outright contempt for the system has reached the executive levels as outlined by this article.

Certainly we need to consider the drivers of corporate culture in medicine. Pharma is one easy identified. Now we have to consider that along with ego, behavior bordering, or even crossing the line, into illegal actions have become the norm.

Steve Lucas

Lola Monro said...

Health care compensation is getting very important. And it should be provided. The way you have represeted information regarding the gealth care compenation can be easily understand. The medical center is making a lot of money, but its operating margin may not be has high as some of its peers.

Anonymous said...

Do you think we could get rid of them by cutting their pay? I mean it stand to reason that since we have to pay so much for these outstanding carpetbaggers that paying them less might send them elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

At least in the WPAHS example, local insurer Highmark seems to want to buy the system and replace its management with those from the Cleveland Clinic.