Tuesday, December 14, 2004

STLtoday - News - Editorial / Commentary

STLtoday - News - Editorial / Commentary: "The third corporation runs hospitals, so it measures operating revenues instead of sales. BJC HealthCare, the region's largest hospital system, had $1.7 billion in operating revenues during 2001. It paid its president and CEO Steven Lipstein $1.9 million in total compensation - more than Mr. Fromm and Mr. Mulcahy combined.

Nearly $2 million is not bad for running a nonprofit corporation. In fact, it's $400,000 more than Monsanto Co. paid its former chief executive, Hendrik A. Verfaille, in 2001, when Monsanto had sales of $5.5 billion.

The big pay package comes at a time when BJC, like other nonprofit hospital systems, is cutting back on the amount of charity care it provides the poor. Between 1992 and 2001, the latest year for which charity care information is available, the amount of charity care provided at 35 area hospitals fell by 46 percent, while pay packages for top executives jumped. At BJC, charity care declined by 4 percent during that decade. As charity care at all hospitals in the region was bottoming out in 2001, six BJC executives got a total of $6.2 million.

When nonprofits compensate their top executives lavishly, it raises questions about their priorities; more money for those at the top can mean less money for those - like indigent patients - at the bottom.

Big executive pay packages, supplemented with bonuses for meeting financial targets, are nothing new in the corporate world. But they are part of a relatively recent shift in culture at nonprofit hospitals. That shift also is evidenced in the high prices hospitals charge uninsured patients, and the heavy-handed tactics many nonprofit "

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