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Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Determining if Drug Price Increases are Justified
Court Overturns CMS' Site-Neutral Payment Policy
Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much
Doctor or Money Shortage in California?
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit


For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.


Entries in CEO (1)


CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much

The Southwestern states were well represented in the category of highest executive pay at non-profit healthcare organizations (1). Leading the way was Bernard Tyson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kaiser in California, who earned over $16 million in salary. Lloyd Dean, CEO of Dignity Health in San Francisco, and Peter Fine, CEO of Banner in Phoenix, also made the top ten at over $9 million and $8 million respectively. The top 10 are listed in Table 1 and the salaries of the top 50 were all over $4 million.

Table 1. Top 10 Healthcare Executives Salary (2017) (1).

However, the salary only tells part of the part of the story. Note that on the far right of Table 1 under the category of other compensation, are some exceedingly high percentages. Adding in other compensation generates the executive total compensation (Table 2).

Table 2. Top 10 Total Executive Compensation (2017) (1).

Please note that these are all not-for-profit corporations. Economists talk about the pay ratio between CEOs and employees. Comparing Peter Fine's $25+ million salary with the average primary care physician salary of $155,212, a group not generally considered to be undercompensated, means Mr. Fine earns more in 2 days than a physician earns in a year (2). Fine earns about $164 for every $1 earned by a physician

The people responsible for Mr. Fine’s compensation at Banner and other healthcare organizations are the board of directors. At Banner this consists of 13 members and 2 physicians. The physicians are Ronald J. Creasman MD, a retired Gilbert, AZ pulmonologist, and John Koster MD, the retired CEO of Providence Health & Services in Renton, WA. The others are mostly current or retired corporate executives and many sit on multiple corporate boards.

Steffie Woolhandler, MD, cofounder of nonprofit Physicians for a National Health Program, describes CEO compensation as a misallocation of funds collected for medical services. Overly generous compensation for executives of healthcare organizations diverts resources that would be better spent on patients, Woolhandler told Medscape Medical News in an interview (3). "This is money that is being taken out of the healthcare system and handed over to CEOs. This is money that is not being spent on medications. It is not being spent on doctor visits," Woolhandler said. "It is not being spent on hospitalizations. It's just going in the pockets of these CEOs."

Modern Healthcare reported that the combined compensation for the 25 top paid executives of nonprofit health systems rose to $197.9 million in 2017 from $148.6 million in 2016 (1). That's a pay increase of 33% for top executives of nonprofits. In contrast, the average increase was just over 5% for physicians in 2016 and 2017 (3). The largest increase seen in 2017 for any specialty was 24% among plastic surgeons. On the other end of the spectrum, pediatricians reported an average salary decrease of 1% in 2017 (3). Annual gross income for registered nurses was essentially flat, with respondents reporting an average income of $81,000 in 2017 and $80,000 in 2016, according to the Medscape's 2018 RN/LPN Compensation Report (3).

Overly generous executive compensation can erode the public's trust in healthcare organizations, especially given the growing backlash against aggressive bill-collection tactics, said Martin Makary MD MPH of Johns Hopkins, an expert in healthcare finance (3). Makary questioned the argument that substantial pay packages and increases are needed to attract and keep the best executive talent. Hospitals would do well to consider higher pay for the people who care directly for patients, he said. "What about the talent on the frontline, nurses and doctors? What about the clinicians and the staff at the hospital? Don't we want the best bedside nurses?" Makary said. The compensation packages for executives leading large healthcare nonprofit organizations reflect the market power these systems possess, J. Michael McWilliams, MD, PhD, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, told Medscape Medical News in an email exchange (3).

The increase in healthcare costs has largely been fueled by administrative overhead which now consumes about 40% of the healthcare dollar (5). The excessive compensation packages for healthcare CEOs and the salaries of their underlings likely contribute to this rising administrative cost. These excessive costs also make accusations against physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers that their salaries are largely responsible for the increase in healthcare costs ring pretty hollow. In order to control costs, understanding where the money is spent is essential.

In 2016 the Arizona Hospital Executive Compensation Act limiting CEO compensation to $450,000/year was proposed (6). Although the act was later dropped from the ballot, a survey of Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care readers showed that 83% supported the measure and 35% though limiting CEO pay would improve patient care. It seems astonishing that so called not-for-profit organizations pay CEOs this amount of compensation. All of the money earned by or donated to a not-for-profit organization should be used in pursuing the organization's objectives and keeping it running. CEO compensation in the millions does not seem to fit these goals.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC


  1. Kacik A. Highest-paid not-for-profit health system executives earn 33% raise in 2017. Modern Healthcare. June, 2019. Available at: (accessed 8/17/19).
  2. Banner Health. Banner Health - physicians & surgeons salaries in the United States. Available at: (accessed 8/17/19).
  3. Young KD. Docs get tiny raises while nonprofit healthcare CEOs get > $10M. Medscape. August 2, 2019. Available at: (accessed 8/17/19).
  4. Robbins RA, Natt B. Medical image of the week: medical administrative growth. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;17(1):35. [CrossRef]
  5. Robbins RA. Survey shows support for the hospital executive compensation act. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13:90. [CrossRef]

Cite as: Robbins RA. CEO compensation-one reason healthcare costs so much. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2019;19(2):76-8. doi: PDF