As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country last year, the chief executive officers of 178 US healthcare companies saw their already lofty pay soar to even higher heights.
Collectively, the 178 CEOs took home $3.2 billion in 2020, according to a new analysis by Axios. Their median pay rose to $9 million, up from about $7.7 million in 2018 and $8 million in 2019. The 2019 US median household income was $68,703, according to the US Census Bureau. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the 2020 national median income for families was $78,500.
Thirty health care CEOs made over $30 million each. That list includes the CEOs of Regeneron ($174 million), Eli Lilly ($68 million), Teladoc ($45 million), UnitedHealth Group ($42 million), and Quest Diagnostics ($34 million).
The CEO with the highest pay was Masimo’s Joe Kiani, who raked in $210 million. Masimo is a medical device company that is well-known for making oxygen saturation measurement products.
CEOs of health insurance companies also fared well. The CEOs of six health care conglomerates—Anthem, Centene, Cigna, CVS Health, Humana, and UnitedHealth Group—collectively took in $236 million in 2020. That is a 45 percent increase from their collective pay in 2019, Axios notes.
Axios calculated pay using actual realized gains of stock options and awards, which are included in disclosures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Gains and losses
The inflated pay for health care executives came as some sectors of the industry appeared to struggle amid the pandemic. Many people put off routine health visits and screenings and delayed elective procedures and treatments. A record 1.4 million health care workers were laid off or furloughed in April of 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the federal government provided $70 billion in bailouts to hospitals and other health care providers.
Still, many hospital CEOs weathered the pandemic just fine. HCA Healthcare, a for-profit hospital chain, threatened to lay off thousands of nurses if they didn’t agree to wage freezes and other concessions, according to The New York Times. Yet HCA accepted $1 billion in bailout funds from the federal government in the first half of 2020. And Axios’ analysis found that HCA’s CEO was the seventh-highest earner in 2020, making nearly $83.6 million.
Likewise, the for-profit hospital chain Tenet Healthcare received $345 million in taxpayer assistance in the first half of 2020 and furloughed roughly 11,000 workers, according to the Times. Its CEO earned $26.5 million.
Read More News: Health care CEOs raked in $3.2 billion as pandemic raged