Labor unions push for Massachusetts hospitals to disclose offshore assets, cap CEO pay

Bills are pending in the Massachusetts legislature that would require hospitals to report their offshore assets and pay financial penalties if their chief executive officers take home overly generous paychecks.

Labor unions back the bills that employ workers in hospital settings, the State House News Service has reported. Their leaders are concerned about the fact that hospitals cut services while stashing assets in offshore accounts in the Caribbean, according to the article.

"Hospital CEOs should not get rich while our families struggle to secure basic services for our children," Susan Wright Thomas, a nurse with the Cambridge Health Alliance said at a legislative hearing last week, the article noted.

The Massachusetts Nursing Association has created a mascot called "Fat Cat Hospital CEO" to bring attention to the issue, WAMC has reported. The union claims at least 40 hospitals in the Bay State have undisclosed offshore assets.

Under the bills pending in the Massachusetts House and Senate, hospitals that serve relatively few Medicaid patients with profit margins of 8 percent or more and compensate their CEOs at a rate greater than 100 times the pay of its lowest-paid employee would have to pay financial penalties into a pool. That money would be used to beef up Medicaid payments to hospitals with a preponderance of poorer patients.

CEOs in healthcare earn more than in any other major industry, and seven-figure paychecks even for nonprofit hospital CEOs are commonplace. There have been questions as to whether the pay scale in the executive suite hurts quality of care and the cost of delivering healthcare services.

Laws regulating hospital C-suite executive pay have failed to gain much traction. In California, voters passed an initiative capping pay at a Bay Area hospital district almost three years ago that would have cut the CEO's pay by about half, but it is in litigation. Another labor-backed statewide initiative in California was dropped after a deal was cut with the state's primary hospital lobby.

To learn more:
- read the State House News Service article
- check out the WAMC article