Tower Health to cut pay for executives, managers

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Tower Health said it is cutting salaries of executives and managers amid financial losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The West Reading, Pa.-based health system has struggled financially in the last two fiscal years. It recorded an operating loss of $378.2 million in fiscal year 2020, as well as an operating deficit of $178.8 million the year prior. And last November, the health system said it would consider selling six of its Philadelphia-area hospitals, including those it has purchased since 2017 from Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, as part of a financial turnaround plan.

To help offset the financial damage, about 400 Tower Health executives and managers will have their pay cut, beginning in their Feb. 19 paychecks, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which cites a letter CEO Clint Matthews wrote to staff. Executives will have their pay cut by 15 percent, and directors, senior directors and associate vice presidents will have their pay cut by 10 percent.

In a statement shared with Becker’s on Feb. 8, the health system said it “is undertaking several initiatives as part of a coordinated plan to improve operations, strengthen care delivery and address the ongoing financial impact of COVID-19.”

“These actions include compensation reductions for executives and managerial employees, along with operational improvements to reduce costs and enhance revenue,” according to the Tower Health statement.

The salary cuts will be in effect until June 30, and do not affect front-line clinical or support staff, who received merit increases in January.

Tower Health projects cost savings of about $11.6 million because of the pay cuts.  

“Reducing management compensation is a difficult but necessary decision that will stabilize and strengthen our financial performance as we continue to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as our ongoing mission of providing compassionate, accessible, high-quality, cost-effective healthcare to our communities,” the health system said.

Citrus Health denies it’s violating compensation law; state says probe continues

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article248806165.html

Mario Jardon, president and CEO of the Hialeah-based Citrus Health Network, made $574,660, which the state says includes $360,840 in excess compensation. The state says the agency also paid excessive compensation to two other executives at the community-based mental health center, for a total of $403,000 in excessive compensation. The company denies it.

The child welfare agency that serves Miami-Dade and Monroe counties pushed back Wednesday against allegations made by the governor’s chief inspector general, denying claims that it used taxpayer funds to pad excessively high salaries of top executives.

In a statement, Citrus Health Network President and CEO Mario Jardon and Citrus Health Network Board of Directors Chair Patricia Croysdale said that the state did not check with them before issuing the preliminary report and Jardon’s salary, and that of chief operating officer Maria Alonso, “do not come from state funds allocated to Citrus as the lead agency, and are provided at no cost to the state.”

Citrus Health Network, a mental health nonprofit, won a half-billion dollar contract in 2019 from the state Department of Children & Families to oversee child welfare cases in Miami-Dade and Monroe. The arrangement is part of the state program that has privatized state services to a patchwork of “lead agencies.”

According to the preliminary findings by the governor’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel, Citrus Health was one of nine agencies that appear to be paying their executives more than the amount allowed by state law.

Florida law prohibits a community-based care lead agency that receives state and federal funding to provide welfare services from paying its executives more than 150% of what the Department of Children and Families secretary makes — a threshold estimated at $213,820.

In response to the Citrus Health comments, Meredith Beatrice, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said that the intent of the report was to highlight agencies that “were either in non-compliance or appeared to have excessive compensation” and will be investigated further.

“Nothing within the document is conclusory or final,’’ she said.

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS

The report says Jardon made $574,660, which the state says includes $360,840 in excess compensation. The state also said Alonso, Jardon’s partner, made $42,379 over the maximum, and the company’s chief information officer, Renan Llanes, made $172 over the limit.

“The Governor’s Office of Inspector General chose to release a preliminary report incorrectly alleging inappropriate use of state funds and excessive executive compensation without first confirming the information in the report directly with Citrus, and without utilizing other publicly available fiscal documents related to our company,’’ the company’s statement said.

The Citrus Health contract began in July 2019, but the state report appears to have used compensation data from tax documents ending in June 2019.

Citrus also pointed to its web site, which has posted a document that shows a 2020-21 budget that includes compensation of $207,711 with “other compensation” of $20,498 for its director. The company said that refers to Esther Jacobo, the director of the Citrus Health Family Care Network, who formerly was the interim secretary at DCF.

A footnote then adds that “CEO and COO are provided at no cost to [Citrus Family Care Network] and DCF.”

“At the beginning of operations as the lead agency, Citrus’ Board of Directors resolved not to burden the budget of the lead agency with the salaries of the CEO and COO of Citrus Health Network,” said Citrus Health Network spokesperson Leslie M. Viega in a statement. “Our CEO and COO’s salaries do not come from any funds allocated to Citrus as the lead agency, regardless of the source, including state-appropriated funds, state-appropriated federal funds, or private funds.”

The company says the salaries are paid through another division, its federally qualified health center which provides behavioral health, primary care, housing for the homeless, and other social services. The Herald/Times asked Citrus Health for a copy of the financial documents that demonstrate this claim but the organization has not provided them.

A NEW CONTRACT

In 2019, Citrus Health won the child welfare contract from a rival non-profit, Our Kids, after a bruising yearlong fight plagued by allegations that the selection process was marred by the appearance of conflicts of interest. The contract gave the company, which had never handled child welfare before, the job of overseeing about 3,000 vulnerable children in the state’s most populous region.

The inspector general’s investigation is the result of an executive order by DeSantis in February 2020 after the Miami Herald reported and a House of Representatives investigation found that the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence paid its chief executive officer, Tiffany Carr, more than $7.5 million over three years.

Carr, who is now a party to two lawsuits, including an attempt by the state to claw back the compensation she was awarded, is currently engaged in negotiations with the attorney general’s office over a mediated settlement.

But it was Carr’s ability to use her network of influential legislators and lobbyists, coupled with the lack of oversight by the Department of Children and Families, that provoked legislators and the governor’s investigators to look into how other non-profits are compensating their executives.

Carr persuaded her board of directors, a close-knit group whom she hand-selected, to approve her compensation package that included thousands of hours of paid leave which she converted to cash.. She justified her salary and bonuses by using comparable salaries of similar organizations but she is alleged to have misrepresented the size of her organization to make the comparisons work to her advantage.

Investigators also suspect Carr avoided declaring millions of dollars in deferred compensation on her tax forms by using a loophole in the tax code.

The inspector general’s report does not name executives but a spreadsheet provided to the Herald/Times from the governor’s office indicates the amounts of compensation by title. The Herald/Times used publicly available tax data to identify the individuals under investigation.

The governor’s office said the next phase of the investigation will be to meet with the nine community-based care organizations early next week “to explain the process” before the final report is completed by June 30.

“It is important to note that the entities impacted from this review will have an opportunity in late May to offer a written response to the draft of the final report,’’ Beatrice said. “Their responses will be included as an attachment to the final report presented to the governor.”

Jefferson Health to cut 500 jobs, reduce executive pay

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/jefferson-health-to-cut-500-jobs-reduce-executive-pay.html?utm_medium=email

Jefferson Aims to Acquire Aria Health

Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health is taking steps to reduce costs to help offset losses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 14-hospital system plans to eliminate between 500 and 600 positions through attrition and will cut pay for its “most senior executives,” according to the Philadelphia Business Journal

Jefferson Health is making cuts after reporting a net loss of $298.7 million in the fiscal year ended June 30. The system posted a loss after receiving $320 million in grants made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to help cover lost revenue and expenses linked to the pandemic, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“As one of the health systems in the United States with the largest amount of Covid patients during the surge, and one of the lowest employee infectivity rates, we took a ‘no expense is too much to protect our employees’ approach with PPE and other measures that drove up short-term expenses,” Stephen Klasko, MD, president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

Dr. Klasko said patient volumes are beginning to rebound, and the health system is ahead of budget for fiscal year 2021. 

“We made a conscious decision, as the region’s second-largest employer, to do no furloughs and only very few pre-planned layoffs during the pandemic surge,” Dr. Klasko told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “Due to our financial stewardship and growth over the past five years, our balance sheet was very stable and remains very stable despite the pandemic tsunami.”

In addition to cutting unfilled positions and reducing executive pay, the health system is taking a few other steps to achieve savings, including a pay freeze and a one-year suspension of employer contributions to employee retirements plans beginning Jan. 1. 

INSIGHT: Health-Care M&A Post-Pandemic—Opportunities, Not Opportunism

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/health-law-and-business/insight-health-care-m-a-post-pandemic-opportunities-not-opportunism

INSIGHT: Health-Care M&A Post-Pandemic—Opportunities, Not Opportunism

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the health-care industry. In addition to the tragedies that the pandemic has brought, health systems have universally experienced severe and rapid deterioration of their bottom lines due to plummeting patient volumes, pausing of high margin elective surgical procedures, and increased expenses.

By some estimates, health system losses will be around $200 billion by the end of June and revenues have dropped by around 50 percent. As a result of the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many hospital and health systems terminated or delayed potential transactions as they focused on managing the crisis and protecting their workforces and communities.

But this may just be the calm before a big M&A storm.

Rise in M&A Activity

Through our work as legal and communications counselors, we have seen preliminary M&A activity rise in recent weeks, with providers exploring and negotiating transactions, including several that have not yet been publicly announced.

Some systems are looking to capitalize on the time between the end of the first wave of Covid-19 and a potential resurgence in the fall to get letters of intent finalized and announced. This coming M&A activity presents legal and communications challenges when the national spotlight is firmly on health systems.

Providers are starting to resurrect deals that were paused during the initial period of the Covid-19 crisis, including Community Health System’s sale of Abilene Regional Medical Center and Brownwood Regional Medical Center to Hendrick Health System.

Some systems are seeking new strategic partners, such as Lake Health in Ohio, and New Hanover Regional Medical Center in North Carolina, which resumed its recent RFP response process after a pause.

Still others are looking for new opportunities consistent with pre-Covid growth strategies, as adjusted for pandemic-related developments and challenges.

More Consolidation

Larger and more financially robust health systems are expected to weather the crisis, whereas smaller systems and hospitals with less cash and tighter operating margins, including rural and critical access hospitals, may be facing insolvency, closure, and bankruptcy. This creates a scenario where one party is financially distressed as a result of the pandemic and needs to partner with or join another system to survive. These circumstances will likely fuel increased consolidation in the health-care industry.

For a struggling provider, joining a larger system can offer much-needed financial commitments, access to capital, disciplined management structure, economies of scale for purchasing and improved IT infrastructure, among many other strategic benefits. A well-positioned system, even if financially weakened due to pandemic challenges, will be able to negotiate favorable deal terms if it has significant strategic value to its prospective partner.

Communications Strategy is Important

As providers explore and execute partnerships, they must implement a stakeholder and communications strategy that focuses on benefits for each side given the new financial reality. Doing so will minimize criticism of opportunism by the acquiring system—and best position a definitive agreement and successful deal.

An effective communications strategy will emphasize how the proposed transaction will maintain or improve quality or affordability, ensure access to care for communities and address financial challenges faced by health systems as a result of the pandemic.

Health systems should articulate how their M&A activity will stabilize affected health systems, allow them to manage the Covid-19 crisis and future pandemics, and continue to meet the overall care needs of the community. It can also highlight how these partnerships will facilitate continued care in a market, which otherwise might lose a valuable health-care resource, as well as the positive economic benefits the transaction will bring for local communities.

Communications that support the vision, rationale and benefits of a deal will also need to be relevant to the regulatory bodies whose approval may be required.

Public perception and support of health-care providers have been extremely positive during the pandemic to date, as evidenced by homemade banners, balcony tributes, and praise on social media. Health systems and their staffs have borne personal risk and financial pain by focusing on patients and public health at the expense of all else. This goodwill can be valuable as health systems seek stakeholder and community support for their transactions.

That goodwill can also quickly be forgotten.

As health systems race to the altar to beat out competitors for M&A targets and other strategic relationships, it is critical that they are thoughtful in structuring their deals and justifying the activity.

For example, acquisitions and partnerships involving substantial outlays of capital and lucrative executive compensation or severance packages will be viewed negatively if undertaken by a system that instituted large compensation reductions across the system or even furloughed or laid off employees during the pandemic.

As the dust begins to settle from the first wave of Covid-19, it is clear that there will be drastic changes to how health systems do business. The pandemic will also create financial winners and losers. Hospitals and health systems must think proactively about a strategy for growth as opportunities with willing transaction partners arise.

But being proactive must be balanced against appearing to be opportunistic or taking advantage of the worst health crisis in our lifetimes. To maintain their goodwill and reputations, health systems should continue to do deals for the right reasons and for the benefit of their communities.

 

 

 

New IRS rules target nonprofit hospital exec pay

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/new-irs-rules-target-nonprofit-hospital-exec-pay.html?utm_medium=email

Those distinctive brown signs outside federal buildings in D.C. ...

The Internal Revenue Service has issued guidance that implements a change in the 2017 tax overhaul that imposed a 21 percent excise tax on compensation paid to executives at some nonprofit organizations, according to Bloomberg Tax.

Under the 2017 law, there’s a tax on a nonprofit organization’s five highest-paid employees earning at least $1 million. The tax, paid by the organization, has been in effect since 2018, but the new guidance provides details on how to calculate employee wages and other compensation to determine if the tax applies, according to the report.

Under the proposed rule, any deferred compensation or retirement bonus not vested before the first taxable year beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, is subject to the tax, according to the American Hospital Association

The AHA urged Congress to provide an exception for existing contracts or nonqualified deferred compensation plans for tax-exempt healthcare organizations. 

Access the full Bloomberg Tax article here.

 

 

 

 

ThedaCare physicians, advanced practice clinicians take pay cuts

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/thedacare-physicians-advanced-practice-clinicians-take-pay-cuts.html?utm_medium=email

ThedaCare pay cuts: Doctors, advanced practice clinicians affected

ThedaCare physicians and advanced practice clinicians will take a 10 percent pay cut to help reduce the Appleton, Wis.-based health system’s financial hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization confirmed to The Post-Crescent.

The physicians and advanced practice clinicians — which include physician assistants and nurse practitioners — will see their pay reduced beginning in June, Cassandra Wallace, a ThedaCare spokesperson, told the newspaper.

ThedaCare is projecting a $70 million loss this year after temporarily postponing revenue-generating elective surgeries and nonurgent clinic visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system began a phased approach to reinstate services last month, but the recommended suspension and the costs associated with COVID-19 preparation resulted in net revenue dropping 40 percent in April, ThedaCare said in a June 4 news release.

The salary reductions are part of the health system’s plan to narrow its projected loss to $30 million, said Imran A. Andrabi, MD, ThedaCare president and CEO.

Dr. Andrabi has also agreed to take a 50 percent pay cut, and other executive leaders will take a 40 percent cut to improve the health system’s financial picture.

Additionally, ThedaCare leaders will not be eligible for incentive compensation for 2020, the health system said.

The health system’s plan does not include mass layoffs.

 

 

 

 

Hospitals Got Bailouts and Furloughed Thousands While Paying C.E.O.s Millions

Hospitals Got Bailouts and Furloughed Thousands While Paying ...

Dozens of top recipients of government aid have laid off, furloughed or cut the pay of tens of thousands of employees.

HCA Healthcare is one of the world’s wealthiest hospital chains. It earned more than $7 billion in profits over the past two years. It is worth $36 billion. It paid its chief executive $26 million in 2019.

But as the coronavirus swept the country, employees at HCA repeatedly complained that the company was not providing adequate protective gear to nurses, medical technicians and cleaning staff. Last month, HCA executives warned that they would lay off thousands of nurses if they didn’t agree to wage freezes and other concessions.

A few weeks earlier, HCA had received about $1 billion in bailout funds from the federal government, part of an effort to stabilize hospitals during the pandemic.

HCA is among a long list of deep-pocketed health care companies that have received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds but are laying off or cutting the pay of tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and lower-paid workers. Many have continued to pay their top executives millions, although some executives have taken modest pay cuts.

The New York Times analyzed tax and securities filings by 60 of the country’s largest hospital chains, which have received a total of more than $15 billion in emergency funds through the economic stimulus package in the federal CARES Act.

The hospitals — including publicly traded juggernauts like HCA and Tenet Healthcare, elite nonprofits like the Mayo Clinic, and regional chains with thousands of beds and billions in cash — are collectively sitting on tens of billions of dollars of cash reserves that are supposed to help them weather an unanticipated storm. And together, they awarded the five highest-paid officials at each chain about $874 million in the most recent year for which they have disclosed their finances.

At least 36 of those hospital chains have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic.

Industry officials argue that furloughs and pay reductions allow hospitals to keep providing essential services at a time when the pandemic has gutted their revenue.

But more than a dozen workers at the wealthy hospitals said in interviews that their employers had put the heaviest financial burdens on front-line staff, including low-paid cafeteria workers, janitors and nursing assistants. They said pay cuts and furloughs made it even harder for members of the medical staff to do their jobs, forcing them to treat more patients in less time.

Even before the coronavirus swept America, forcing hospitals to stop providing lucrative nonessential surgery and other services, many smaller hospitals were on the financial brink. In March, lawmakers sought to address that with a vast federal economic stimulus package that included $175 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to hand out in grants to hospitals.

But the formulas to determine how much money hospitals receive were based largely on their revenue, not their financial needs. As a result, hospitals serving wealthier patients have received far more funding than those that treat low-income patients, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

One of the bailout’s goals was to avoid job losses in health care, said Zack Cooper, an associate professor of health policy and economics at Yale University who is a critic of the formulas used to determine the payouts. “However, when you see hospitals laying off or furloughing staff, it’s pretty good evidence the way they designed the policy is not optimal,” he added.

The Mayo Clinic, with more than eight months of cash in reserve, received about $170 million in bailout funds, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First, which researches government subsidies of companies. The Mayo Clinic is furloughing or reducing the working hours of about 23,000 employees, according to a spokeswoman, who was among those who went on furlough. A second spokeswoman said that Mayo Clinic executives have had their pay cut.

Seven chains that together received more than $1.5 billion in bailout funds — Trinity Health, Beaumont Health and the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan; SSM Health and Mercy in St. Louis; Fairview Health in Minneapolis; and Prisma Health in South Carolina — have furloughed or laid off more than 30,000 workers, according to company officials and local news reports.

The bailout money, which hospitals received from the Health and Human Services Department without having to apply for it, came with few strings attached.

Katherine McKeogh, a department spokeswoman, said it “encourages providers to use these funds to maintain delivery capacity by paying and protecting doctors, nurses and other health care workers.” The legislation restricts hospitals’ ability to use the bailout funds to pay top executives, although it doesn’t stop recipients from continuing to award large bonuses.

The hospitals generally declined to comment on how much they are paying their top executives this year, although they have reported previous years’ compensation in public filings. But some hospitals furloughing front-line staff or cutting their salaries have trumpeted their top executives’ decisions to take voluntary pay cuts or to contribute portions of their salary to help their employees.

The for-profit hospital giant Tenet Healthcare, which has received $345 million in taxpayer assistance since April, has furloughed roughly 11,000 workers, citing the financial pressures from the pandemic. The company’s chief executive, Ron Rittenmeyer, told analysts in May that he would donate half of his salary for six months to a fund set up to assist those furloughed workers.

But Mr. Rittenmeyer’s salary last year was a small fraction of his $24 million pay package, which consists largely of stock options and bonuses, securities filings show. In total, he will wind up donating roughly $375,000 to the fund — equivalent to about 1.5 percent of his total pay last year.

A Tenet spokeswoman declined to comment on the precise figures.

The chief executive at HCA, Samuel Hazen, has donated two months of his salary to a fund to help HCA’s workers. Based on his pay last year, that donation would amount to about $237,000 — or less than 1 percent — of his $26 million compensation.

“The leadership cadre of these organizations are going to need to make sacrifices that are commensurate with the sacrifices of their work force, not token sacrifices,” said Jeff Goldsmith, the president of Health Futures, an industry consulting firm.

Many large nonprofit hospital chains also pay their senior executives well into the millions of dollars a year.

Dr. Rod Hochman, the chief executive of the Providence Health System, for instance, was paid more than $10 million in 2018, the most recent year for which records are available. Providence received at least $509 million in federal bailout funds.

A spokeswoman, Melissa Tizon, said Dr. Hochman would take a voluntary pay cut of 50 percent for the rest of 2020. But that applies only to his base salary, which in 2018 was less than 20 percent of his total compensation.

Some of Providence’s physicians and nurses have been told to prepare for pay cuts of at least 10 percent beginning in July. That includes employees treating coronavirus patients.

Stanford University’s health system collected more than $100 million in federal bailout grants, adding to its pile of $2.4 billion of cash that it can use for any purpose.

Stanford is temporarily cutting the hours of nursing staff, nursing assistants, janitorial workers and others at its two hospitals. Julie Greicius, a spokeswoman for Stanford, said the reduction in hours was intended “to keep everyone employed and our staff at full wages with benefits intact.”

Ms. Greicius said David Entwistle, the chief executive of Stanford’s health system, had the choice of reducing his pay by 20 percent or taking time off, and chose to reduce his working hours but “is maintaining his earning level by using paid time off.” In 2018, the latest year for which Stanford has disclosed his compensation, Mr. Entwistle earned about $2.8 million. Ms. Greicius said the majority of employees made the same choice as Mr. Entwistle.

HCA’s $1 billion in federal grants appears to make it the largest beneficiary of health care bailout funds. But its medical workers have a long list of complaints about what they see as penny-pinching practices.

Since the pandemic began, medical workers at 19 HCA hospitals have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the lack of respirator masks and being forced to reuse medical gowns, according to copies of the complaints reviewed by The Times.

Ed Fishbough, an HCA spokesman, said that despite a global shortage of masks and other protective gear, the company had “provided appropriate P.P.E., including a universal masking policy implemented in March requiring all staff in all areas to wear masks, including N95s, in line with C.D.C. guidance.”

Celia Yap-Banago, a nurse at an HCA hospital in Kansas City, Mo., died from the virus in April, a month after her colleagues complained to OSHA that she had to treat a patient without wearing protective gear. The next month, Rosa Luna, who cleaned patient rooms at HCA’s hospital in Riverside, Calif., also died of the virus; her colleagues had warned executives in emails that workers, especially those cleaning hospital rooms, weren’t provided proper masks.

Around the time of Ms. Luna’s death, HCA executives delivered a warning to officials at the Service Employees International Union and National Nurses United, which represent many HCA employees. The company would lay off up to 10 percent of their members, unless the unionized workers amended their contracts to incorporate wage freezes and the elimination of company contributions to workers’ retirement plans, among other concessions.

Nurses responded by staging protests in front of more than a dozen HCA hospitals.

“We don’t work in a jelly bean factory, where it’s OK if we make a blue jelly bean instead of a red one,” said Kathy Montanino, a nurse treating Covid-19 patients at HCA’s Riverside hospital. “We are dealing with people’s lives, and this company puts their profits over patients and their staff.”

Mr. Fishbough, the spokesman, said HCA “has not laid off or furloughed a single caregiver due to the pandemic.” He said the company had been paying medical workers 70 percent of their base pay, even if they were not working. Mr. Fishbough said that executives had taken pay cuts, but that the unions had refused to take similar steps.

“While we hope to continue to avoid layoffs, the unions’ decisions have made that more difficult for our facilities that are unionized,” he said. The dispute continues.

Apparently anticipating a strike, a unit of HCA recently created “a new line of business focused on staffing strike-related labor shortages,” according to an email that an HCA recruiter sent to nurses.

The email, reviewed by The Times, said nurses who joined the venture would earn more than they did in their current jobs: up to $980 per shift, plus a $150 “Show Up” bonus and a continental breakfast.

 

 

 

 

McLaren Health Care’s too secretive about finances, PPE, Michigan nurse union says

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/workforce/mclaren-health-care-s-too-secretive-about-finances-ppe-michigan-nurse-union-says.html?utm_medium=email

About McLaren Health Care

Ten nurse unions in Michigan are accusing McLaren Health Care of not being transparent about its finances and personal protective equipment supply during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the health system said it has shared some of that information.

Many of the nurse unions have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that by not sharing information with front-line healthcare workers the Grand Blanc, Mich.-based health system is violating federal labor law, a media release from the Michigan Nurses Association states.

According to the association, each of its 10 unions received a letter from the health system May 15, in which the system refused to divulge how much funding it received in federal COVID-19 grants. The health system also has refused to provide details about its protective gear inventory, the unions allege.

“The fact that they won’t share basic financial information with those of us working on the front lines makes you wonder if they have something to hide,” said Christie Serniak, a nurse at McLaren Central Michigan hospital in Mount Pleasant and president of the Michigan Nurses Association affiliate.

But the health system maintains it has been transparent and has worked with labor unions and bargaining units across the system since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve openly shared information about our operations, the challenges of restrictions on elective procedures, our plans for managing influxes of patients and our supplies of personal protective equipment,” Shela Khan Monroe, vice president of labor and employment relations at McLaren Health Care told Becker’s Hospital Review.

Ms. Khan Monroe said that the information has been shared through weekly meetings, departmental meetings and several union negotiation sessions over the last two months.

The unions also say that the health system has not offered its workers hazard pay or COVID-19 paid leave that is on par with other systems. They say that only workers who test positive for COVID-19 can take additional paid time off.

In a written statement, McLaren disputed the union’s claims about employee leave, saying that employees “dealing with child care and other COVID-related family matters” can take time off to care for loved ones.

McLaren did not specify if this time off is paid. Becker’s has reached out for clarification and will update the article once more information is available.

“We have negotiations pending with several of the unions involved in the coalition, and while we are deeply disappointed in these recent tactics, we will continue to work towards productive outcomes for all concerned,” said Ms. Khan Monroe.

Recently, a coalition of unions urged McLaren Health Care executives to reduce their own salaries before laying off employees.

 

 

 

The U.S. plans to lend $500 billion to large companies. It won’t require them to preserve jobs or limit executive pay.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/28/federal-reserve-bond-corporations/?fbclid=IwAR21PBlVqLVVDVf8CeVxGpTuHgxXbDqy49K49BpeeYav-KmKYxS_xfnAX5A&platform=hootsuite

DownWithTyranny!: April 2020

The Fed’s coronavirus aid program lacks restrictions Congress placed on companies seeking financial help under other programs.

A Federal Reserve program expected to begin within weeks will provide hundreds of billions in emergency aid to large American corporations without requiring them to save jobs or limit payments to executives and shareholders.

Under the program, the central bank will buy up to $500 billion in bonds issued by large companies. The companies will use the influx of cash as a financial lifeline but are required to pay it back with interest.

Unlike other portions of the relief for American businesses, however, this aid will be exempt from rules passed by Congress requiring recipients to limit dividends, executive compensation and stock buybacks and does not direct the companies to maintain certain employment levels.

Critics say the program could allow large companies that take the federal help to reward shareholders and executives without saving any jobs. The program was set up jointly by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

“I am struck that the administration is relying on the good will of the companies receiving this assistance,” said Eswar Prasad, a former official at the International Monetary Fund and economist at Cornell University. “A few months down the road, after the government purchases its debt, the company can turn around and issue a bunch of dividends to shareholders or fire its workers, and there’s no clear path to get it back.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the corporate aid program, saying that the lack of restrictions on recipients had been discussed and agreed to by Congress. “This was highly discussed on a bipartisan basis. This was thought through carefully,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “What we agreed upon was direct loans would carry the restrictions, and the capital markets transactions would not carry the restrictions.”

Democrats asked for restrictions on how companies can use the money from the central bank’s bond purchases but were rebuffed by the administration during negotiations about the Cares Act, said a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). The spokesman said Democrats won meaningful concessions from the administration on reporting transparency in the final agreement. (Transparency requirements do not apply to the small-business loans, the biggest business aid program rolled out to date.)

Mnuchin also said the program had already bolstered investor confidence in U.S. capital markets, which in turn helped firms raise capital they used to avoid layoffs.

“The mere announcement of these facilities, quite frankly, led to a reopening of a lot of these capital markets,” Mnuchin said in an interview. “Even before these facilities are up and running, they’ve had their desired impact of having stability in the markets. Stability in the markets allows companies to function, and raise money and allows them to keep and retain workers and get back to work.”

The corporate debt purchases by the Fed stand in stark contrast with other portions of the federal aid for U.S. businesses that come with requirements to protect jobs or limit spending.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which offers $659 billion for small businesses, requires companies to certify that the money will be used to “retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage payments, lease payments, and utility payments.”

The “Main Street” program offering up to $600 billion to “midsize” businesses — with 500 to 10,000 employees — forbids companies from issuing dividends and places limits on executive compensation, according to a term sheet issued by the Fed. Those restrictions are in effect until 12 months after the loan is no longer outstanding. The companies must also “make reasonable efforts” to maintain payroll and retain employees.

Likewise, the $46 billion program for airlines, air cargo companies and national security forbids dividends and limits executive pay. Its requirement on retaining employment is more rigorous, however. Companies are supposed retain at least 90 percent of their employees.

The first version of the Fed program to buy bonds from large companies, known as the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, probably would have compelled recipients of the aid to limit executive pay and dividends. That version of the program, described in a March 23 term sheet issued by the Fed, offered direct loans and bond purchases to companies. Under the Cares Act, the federal programs offering direct loans must set restrictions on company dividends and CEO pay; those that buy only corporate bonds do not. Both are forms of lending, although bonds are more easily resold.

But on April 9, the Fed altered the design of the program to exclude direct corporate lending. The Fed program will still essentially lend money to large companies — by buying their bonds — but the Fed will not be compelled by the Cares Act to ensure that companies abide by the divided and CEO pay rules.

“The change to the term sheet between March and April is the smoking gun on the Fed’s own culpability here,” said Gregg Gelzinis, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “The basic principle of the Cares Act was that if we’re going to provide taxpayer funding to private industry, we need conditions to make sure it is in the public interest. This violates that principle.”

Bharat Ramamurti, an aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who was appointed to the board overseeing the bailout, said in a statement: “Big corporations have shown time and again that they will put their shareholders and executives ahead of their workers if given the choice. That’s why I’m so concerned that the Treasury and the Fed have chosen to direct hundreds of billions of dollars to big companies with no strings attached.”

A spokesman for the Federal Reserve declined to comment. The Fed’s board of governors unanimously approved the new bond purchasing program on March 22. The Fed has said it will purchase only the bonds of firms above a certain grade. The issuer of the bond also must meet the conflicts-of-interest requirements in the Cares Act, which preclude federal lawmakers or their relatives from benefiting financially from the government bailout.

In the interview, Mnuchin also said many companies are ceasing stock buybacks and are likely to use the additional capital to retain workers.

“A lot of companies have stopped their share buybacks and slashed their dividends, because they need that capital to invest in their business. Even though these restrictions don’t necessarily apply, that’s already happening,” he said.

Some experts disputed that assertion. “Some companies have ceased buybacks and dividends and some haven’t. We shouldn’t have to keep our fingers crossed,” Gelzinis said.

It is unknown what the terms will be for the Fed lending under the program, or how favorable they will be for recipients. The term sheet says only that they will depend on the company and be “informed” by market conditions.

Companies selling their bonds to the central bank are expected to be primarily investment grade, publicly traded firms and therefore subject to more disclosure and oversight than those that are privately held. Patricia C. Mosser, a former senior official at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said these corporations are scrutinized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, private investors and the credit rating agencies.

“It’s true that there’s nothing stopping these companies from continuing to pay stock dividends. You may not like that, and I have sympathy for that position,” said Mosser, now a professor at Columbia University. “But it’s easier to unmask bad behavior in public companies. Large companies certainly don’t do everything right, but they have to admit publicly how they pay top executives, where their profits go and how they use them. That history of disclosure and oversight means the risk of not being repaid is lower.”

The weaker restrictions on recipients of the Fed’s lending program may be partly justified, said Nathan Tankus, research director at the Modern Money Network, which studies monetary policy. The corporate bonds that the Fed is purchasing from companies can be resold, whereas direct loans establish an agreement between the company and the government that makes the asset less valuable to the central bank, he said.

“Purchases of debt are a slightly more arm’s-length transaction than the loan, which is forming a bilateral relationship,” Tankus said. “But this is really just the fig leaf the Fed can use to justify lifting the restrictions.”

 

 

 

Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Redeployment for Doctors and Hospital Staff

https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85827?xid=nl_mpt_investigative2020-04-08&eun=g885344d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=InvestigativeMD_040820&utm_term=NL_Gen_Int_InvestigateMD_Active

Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Redeployment for Doctors and Hospital Staff ...

— Health systems see massive disruption from COVID-19

In Michigan, Trinity Health is furloughing 2,500 of its 24,000 employees. In Florida, Sarasota Memorial Health Care is taking “immediate steps to reduce costs, including temporary furloughs and reduced hours” for workers.

In less than 1 month, COVID-19 has made swift, deep cuts in hospital billings. Despite high volumes in the first 2 weeks, March revenue plunged by $16 million at Sarasota Memorial. Surgery cases fell by more than 50%, and volumes dropped by 45% at two emergency care centers and by 66% at seven urgent care centers.

Squeezed by plummeting income and climbing COVID-19 expenses, hospitals and health systems are bracing themselves for system-wide disruption by announcing temporary layoffs, reassignments, and pay cuts.

Many changes, like Trinity’s furloughs in Michigan, affect mainly non-clinical workers. Some alter compensation or duties for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers.

“In all parts of the country, physicians are being asked to sign agreements or acknowledgments for pay cuts ranging from 20% to 75%, depending on what their specialty is, where they are, and what the institutions are doing,” said Scott Weavil, JD, a California lawyer who counsels physicians nationwide about employment contracts.

“Many of these providers are not on the front lines of COVID, but they are still working,” Weavil noted. “Babies are being born. People are having accidents and visiting emergency departments. Urgent surgeries are happening. Physicians are at work or on call and ready to help if needed. And in most of these environments, there are patients who have tested positive for COVID-19,” he told MedPage Today.

“Ob/gyns aren’t doing a lot of elective procedures like hysterectomies, but they are delivering babies for COVID-positive patients, wearing donated cloth masks that may or may not be effective,” Weavil added.

In some cases, doctors have been sidelined and face the prospect of dwindling income as patient volumes fall. “We have 2,600 physicians and advanced-practice providers,” said Mark Briesacher, MD, senior vice president and chief physician executive of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City. “About 800 of them are on a patient volume-related type of contract, similar to what you would have in private practice.”

Because non-urgent and elective procedures are being delayed, some of these clinicians now see 30% to 50% fewer patients and could face big income drops, Briesacher told MedPage Today. “But we’ve put a floor in place,” he said: these providers will receive their usual pay until May 30, then 85% of that amount until normal patient volumes resume.

Redeployment can help practitioners make up lost income, Briesacher added. “A general surgeon often has critical care training,” he noted. “When this increase in patient care needs due to COVID-19 does come to Utah, we can deploy that surgeon to work in our ICUs with a critical care doctor, and if they’re working fulltime, they’ll get paid the same as they were before.”

Reassignment does not stop with doctors at Intermountain: hospital nurses can be deployed to screening desks, drive-through testing sites, or telehealth centers and will keep their current rate of pay, spokesperson Daron Crowley said.

“I recently reviewed a COVID-19 compensation plan of a health system in Florida that would give physicians their base or draw, or a midpoint between their 2019 base and their 2019 overall compensation,” noted Weavil, the attorney. “That seemed pretty good, but it came at a cost: the physicians had to agree to practice outside of their normal setting, as long as they were credentialed for the work.”

“At first blush, the credentialing requirement sounded like a protection; if you are a psychiatrist, you’d think ‘they’re not going to send me to the ICU,’ and normally, that’s correct,” Weavil continued.

But hospitals are adopting emergency credentialing provisions during COVID-19 and “doctors can be forced to practice pretty far afield of their specialty,” he said. In some ways, the situation resembles residency, he pointed out: “You have an attending physician who knows what she’s doing directing fish-out-of-water physicians who have been conscripted into service beyond their specialties.”

The list of hospital systems announcing major changes — including pay cuts for hospital executives, as Trinity Health in Michigan has done — grows each day. Boston Medical Center Health System has furloughed 700 employees; Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health has announced it will do the same. Kentucky’s Appalachian Regional Healthcare will furlough about 500 staff members. South Carolina’s Prisma Health will lay off an undisclosed number of clinical, corporate, and administrative workers. Tenet Healthcare in Dallas has furloughed 500 fulltime positions.

Furloughing staff “was an extremely difficult decision, and one that we did not make lightly,” Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder wrote in a letter to employees.

“Staff have gone above and beyond to care for our patients throughout this crisis, even as they have been anxious about the health and well-being of themselves and their families,” he continued. “But as the health care safety net for the region, we must do all we can to continue fulfilling that critical role in the weeks ahead and for the long-term.”