Letters to the Editor

Sickening profits

August 2, 2007

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To the editor:

I was appalled by the recent announcement that the former chief executive officer of Kansas University Hospital, who chose to leave for another opportunity, was given a $1.8 million separation package. The stated reason was to ensure she would not hire away hospital employees or disclose confidential information, both highly unethical activities. Just this extra compensation would pay the salary of the average family physician for about 13 years.

Unfortunately, this is small potatoes in the health care industry. The compensation of the CEO of United Healthcare was $124 million in 2005 and exceeded $3 billion over his 12 years in that job. Such exorbitant compensation is justified by the $3.31 billion profit his corporation earned in 2005. Aetna - $1.635 billion profit in 2005 with CEO compensation of $22.2 million. Cigna - $1.625 billion profit with only $13.3 million going to the CEO.

If you have not seen the movie "Sicko" by Michael Moore, please do so for information on where these profits come from. They come from you, your employer and your taxes. Ultimately, they come at the expense of 45 million patients (your friends and family) who can no longer obtain or afford health insurance.

We have arrived at a health care system for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many, and it is on the brink of total collapse. It is time to join the rest of the world and abandon our experiment in corporate health care for a single payer system.

Dr. Steven C. Bruner,

Lawrence

Comments

imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

surgeons can make a lot more than that. 250-750 is not out of line for a surgeon.

Lots of companies do this however. It's a risk management situation. They obviously thought that there was more to lose than 1.8 million. Hiring off employees happens a lot. Lots of small businesses start that way.

purplesage 7 years, 9 months ago

The small town docs I know make $175K or so. Wal-Mart pays pharmacists around $50.00 an hour. Almost everyone in healthcare has upper 5 to 6 figure incomes except, of course, the poor folks who clean floors and change beds, cook food etc.. That's why the average health insurance play, with $1000.00 deductible coast $4K - $5K. Want one that pays anything and you are looking at $1K a month.

I don't care what they do, hit 755 home runs, run a hospital, appear in movies, NOBODY is worth what these CEO's make. It is, especially in healthcare, profiting off of people's misery and misfortune..

Ragingbear 7 years, 9 months ago

You think your average family physician makes $138,000 a year? A surgeon maybe, but not a physician.

nell 7 years, 9 months ago

"Lots of companies do this however. It's a risk management situation. They obviously thought that there was more to lose than 1.8 million. Hiring off employees happens a lot. Lots of small businesses start that way."

Yes, but can't a clause be written into the employment agreement at the outset to prevent hiring off employees on departure? Just because the amount is put on the table (instead of handed under it) and is taxable (and probably tax shelterable) doesn't make it any less of a personal bribe. Common business practice has created the expectation of payoff, thus has legitimized this type of corruption.

The reality is that her departure is not a great risk to the institution's ability to provide quality health care, but given the payout it will, irresponsibly, raise costs for consumers.

Thank you, Dr. Bruner.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 9 months ago

Dr. Bruner, Do you actually think government can do a better job with healthcare than the marketplace? The reason we are the richest, most prosperous nation on the planet is because, so far, we have rejected notions like yours.

Jamesaust 7 years, 9 months ago

So ... to recap: salaries come from profits and profits come from people. And that's bad.

I certainly hope that this letter's author doesn't have some pension or IRA-like retirement plan (let alone, God forbid!, personal savings) making profits that come from people.

Grundoon Luna 7 years, 9 months ago

Good post, Py!!

Dr. Bruner has been a practicing physican for over 30 years. I think he knows they system intimately and certainly beter that you, Straight guy. Many countries are successful with socialized medicine and we should try to do so as well. It certainly can't be worse because my paycheck gets raped by medical expenses between the premiums and OO pocket expenses. Health care should not be for-profit!!!

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 9 months ago

These sweatheart deals are negotiated during the period that the recipient has convinced their prospective employeer that they are WAY more valid than they actually are. Once the person is hired, and everyone finds out that they're just another overpaid executive, it's too late. When the eventual split happens, bingo, those contract clauses come into play and the money starts flowing.

If you knew the reality of a socialized medical system (if that is what you think is the option here), you wouldn't be proposing it as the solution. I think CEOs are overpaid too, but, Doc, I'm not near upset enough to spend one penny on MM's twisted-propaganda-half-truth films.

ladyjhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Hawk,

I just did the math on your pay as you go proposal. It comes out to around $62,000 per year. Not a bad salary, until you start to take out the cost of a nurse, receptionist, medical records clerk, rent, utilities, ect........

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