AHA: CEO salary analysis a "disservice" to hospital executives

The American Hospital Association (AHA) disputed a New York Times analysis of healthcare executive compensation in a letter to the editor published this week.

The NYT's analysis found that although physicians are the most highly trained professionals in the healthcare field, surgeons earn an average of $306,000 and general doctors make $185,000, far less than the $386,000 average for hospital chief executive officers. And CEOs make even more when non-salary compensation is taken into account, such as Ronald J. Del Mauro, former president of New Jersey-based Barnabas Health, who earned $28,000 the year he retired but whose total compensation was nearly $22 million.

The AHA objected to what it perceived as the NYT's implication that hospital CEOs and executives are less deserving of their salaries than doctors, according to the letter.

"You do a disservice to the dedicated men and women who lead America's hospitals. Management experts say running an American hospital is among the most complex and demanding jobs in any community," AHA President and Chief Executive Rich Umbdenstock wrote. "Hospital chief executives must keep their doors open 24/7, even in disasters, in a constantly shifting local, state and federal regulatory environment; negotiate with dozens of payers; and manage the largest and best educated staff in the community."

Executive compensation, Umbdenstock wrote, is subject to heavy IRS scrutiny for tax-exempt organizations, and executives are equally as committed as doctors to lowering costs and improving community health.

The AHA took "particular issue" with a passage from the analysis suggesting that only doctors have a vested interested in helping patients, Umbdenstock wrote. "Every hospital leader goes into the field to help patients," he said. "The trust we place in our hospitals' ability to deliver care relies on the success of the committed people who lead caregiver teams that anchor every community's healthcare safety net."

To learn more:
- here's the letter