Bruising labor battles put Kaiser Permanente’s reputation on the line

Bruising labor battles put Kaiser Permanente’s reputation on the line

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The ongoing labor battles have undermined the health giant’s once-golden reputation as a model of cost-effective care that caters to satisfied patients — which it calls “members” — and is exposing it to new scrutiny from politicians and health policy analysts.

Kaiser Permanente, which just narrowly averted one massive strike, is facing another one Monday.

The ongoing labor battles have undermined the health giant’s once-golden reputation as a model of cost-effective care that caters to satisfied patients — which it calls “members” — and is exposing it to new scrutiny from politicians and health policy analysts.

As the labor disputes have played out loudly, ricocheting off the bargaining table and into the public realm, some critics believe that the nonprofit health system is becoming more like its for-profit counterparts and is no longer living up to its foundational ideals.

Compensation for CEO Bernard Tyson topped $16 million in 2017, making him the highest-paid nonprofit health system executive in the nation. The organization also is building a $900 million flagship headquarters in Oakland. And it bid up to $295 million to become the Golden State Warriors’ official health care provider, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The deal gave the health system naming rights for the shopping and restaurant complex surrounding the team’s new arena in San Francisco, which it has dubbed “Thrive City.”

The organization reported $2.5 billion in net income in 2018 and its health plan sits on about $37.6 billion in reserves.

Against that backdrop of wealth, more than 80,000 employees were poised to strike last month over salaries, retirement benefits and concerns over outsourcing and subcontracting. Nearly 4,000 members of its mental health staff in California are threatening to walk out Monday over the long wait times their patients face for appointments.

“Kaiser’s primary mission, based on their nonprofit status, is to serve a charitable mission,” said Ge Bai, associate professor of accounting and health policy at Johns Hopkins University. “The question is, do they need such an excessive, fancy flagship space? Or should they save money to help the poor and increase employee salaries?”

Lawmakers in California, Kaiser Permanente’s home state, recently targeted it with a new financial transparency law aimed at determining why its premiums continue to increase.

There’s a growing suspicion “that these nonprofit hospitals are not here purely for charitable missions, but instead are working to expand market share,” Bai said.

The scrutiny marks a disorienting role-reversal for Kaiser, an integrated system that acts as both health insurer and medical provider, serving 12.3 million patients and operating 39 hospitals across eight states and the District of Columbia. The bulk of its presence is in California. (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Many health systems have tried to imitate its model for delivering affordable health care, which features teams of salaried doctors and health professionals who work together closely, and charges few if any extraneous patient fees. It emphasizes caring and community with slogans like “Health isn’t an industry. It’s a cause,” and “We’re all in this together. And together, we thrive.”

Praised by President Barack Obama for its efficiency and high-quality care, the health maintenance organization has tried to set itself apart from its profit-hungry, fee-for-service counterparts.

Now, its current practices — financial and medical — are getting a more critical look.

As a nonprofit, Kaiser doesn’t have to pay local property and sales taxes, state income taxes and federal corporate taxes, in exchange for providing “charity care and community benefits” — although the federal government doesn’t specify how much.

As a percentage of its total spending, Kaiser Permanente’s charity care spending has decreased from 1.29% in 2012 to 0.8% in 2017. Other hospitals in California have exhibited a similar decrease, saying there are fewer uninsured patients who need help since the Affordable Care Act expanded insurance coverage.

CEO Tyson told California Healthline that he limits operating income to about 2% of revenue, which pays for things like capital improvements, community benefit programs and “the running of the company.”

“The idea we’re trying to maximize profit is a false premise,” he said.

The organization is different from many other health systems because of its integrated model, so comparisons are not perfect, but its operating margins were smaller and more stable than other large nonprofit hospital groups in California. AdventHealth’s operating margin was 7.15% in 2018, while Dignity Health had losses in 2016 and 2017.

Tyson said that executive compensation is a “hotspot” for any company in a labor dispute. “In no way would I try to justify it or argue against it,” he said of his salary. In addition to his generous compensation, the health plan paid 35 other executives more than $1 million each in 2017, according to its tax filings.

Even its board members are well-compensated. In 2017, 13 directors each received between $129,000 and $273,000 for what its tax filings say is five to 10 hours of work a week.

And that $37.6 billion in reserves? It’s about 17 times more than the health plan is required by the state to maintain, according to the California Department of Managed Health Care.

Kaiser Permanente said it doesn’t consider its reserves excessive because state regulations don’t account for its integrated model. These reserves represent the value of its hospitals and hundreds of medical offices in California, plus the information technology they rely on, it said.

Kaiser Permanente said its new headquarters will save at least $60 million a year in operating costs because it will bring all of its Oakland staffers under one roof. It justified the partnership with the Warriors by noting it spans 20 years and includes a community gathering space that will provide health services for both members and the public.

Kaiser has a right to defend its spending, but “it’s hard to imagine a nearly $300 million sponsorship being justifiable,” said Michael Rozier, an assistant professor at St. Louis University who studies nonprofit hospitals.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West was about to strike in October before reaching an agreement with Kaiser Permanente.

Democratic presidential candidates Kamala HarrisBernie SandersElizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, as well as 132 elected California officials, supported the cause.

California legislators this year adopted a bill sponsored by SEIU California that will require the health system to report its financial data to the state by facility, as opposed to reporting aggregated data from its Northern and Southern California regions, as it currently does. This data must include expenses, revenues by payer and the reasons for premium increases.

Other hospitals already report financial data this way, but the California legislature granted Kaiser Permanente an exemption when reporting began in the 1970s because it is an integrated system. This created a financial “black hole” said state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the bill’s author.

“They’re the biggest game in town,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer group Health Access California. “With great power comes great responsibility and a need for transparency.”

Patient care, too, is under scrutiny.

California’s Department of Managed Health Care fined the organization $4 million over mental health wait times in 2013, and in 2017 hammered out an agreement with it to hire an outside consultant to help improve access to care. The department said Kaiser Permanente has so far met all the requirements of the settlement.

But according to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which is planning Monday’s walkout, wait times have just gotten worse.

Tyson said mental health care delivery is a national issue — “not unique to Kaiser Permanente.” He said the system is actively hiring more staff, contracting with outside providers and looking into using technology to broaden access to treatment.

At a mid-October union rally in Oakland, therapists said the health system’s billions in profits should allow it to hire more than one mental health clinician for every 3,000 members, which the union says is the current ratio.

Ann Rivello, 50, who has worked periodically at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center since 2000, said therapists are so busy they struggle to take bathroom breaks and patients wait about two months between appointments for individual therapy.

“Just take $100 million that they’re putting into the new ‘Thrive City’ over there with the Warriors,” she said. “Why can’t they just give it to mental health?”

 

 

 

Phoenix hospital CEO gets $85K raise despite criticism from board members

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/phoenix-hospital-ceo-gets-85k-raise-despite-criticism-from-board-members.html

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The CEO of a public and nonprofit safety-net health system in Phoenix will get an $85,000 raise despite objections from two board members who questioned if the increase was excessive, according to the Arizona Republic.

Under a new five-year contract effective Oct. 25, Steve Purves, CEO of Valleywise Health, will see his annual salary rise to $685,000. Mr. Purves could also receive a discretionary $171,250 performance bonus and is eligible for a $68,500 retention bonus on Oct. 25, 2020. In 2020, Mr. Purves’ base pay will climb to $753,500, and by 2023 his base salary will be $872,191, according to the contract cited by the Arizona Republic.

The hospital’s governing board approved the contract in a 3-2 vote. The two board members who voted against the contract raised concerns about its length as well as the rise in salary and bonuses. They questioned whether a raise of that magnitude was appropriate, given that the hospital has faced federal penalties for five consecutive years over patient injuries and infections. They also noted Valleywise Health anticipates a $3 million deficit this fiscal year.

But the three board members who supported the contract said it was necessary to ensure Mr. Purves remained at Valleywise Health. They argued the package is similar to other CEOs at comparable health systems. They also praised Mr. Purves for steering Valleywise’s finances in a better direction, according to the Arizona Republic.

The final contract is $15,000 lower than one proposed in September. In that proposal, Mr. Purves would have received a $100,000 pay hike with a discretionary performance bonus of up to $175,000.

Read the full report here.

 

Former CFO sues Texas hospital for defamation

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/former-cfo-sues-texas-hospital-for-defamation.html

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The former CFO of Huntsville (Texas) Memorial Hospital is suing the hospital for breach of contract and defamation, according to the SE Texas Record.

In his complaint, filed Aug. 28, Guy Gros claims he was hired as Huntsville Memorial’s CFO in February 2013. He was initially given a two-year contract and then a three-year contract with automatic renewals, according to the lawsuit.

Under the contract, the hospital could terminate Mr. Gros’s employment for cause. On Dec. 2, 2016 he was terminated for alleged cause. However, Mr. Gros asserts that he was fired for raising concerns about the hospital’s finances.  

Mr. Gros further alleges his reputation was damaged by false statements made by the hospital’s then CEO, who allegedly told a board member that Mr. Gros “did something illegal, something he should not have.”

Mr. Gros is seeking past and future wages, lost employment benefits and compensatory damages.

 

Top 5 Differences Between NFPs and For-Profit Hospitals

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/top-5-differences-between-nfps-and-profit-hospitals

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Although nonprofit and for-profit hospitals are fundamentally similar, there are significant cultural and operational differences, such as strategic approaches to scale and operational discipline.

All hospitals serve patients, employ physicians and nurses, and operate in tightly regulated frameworks for clinical services. For-profit hospitals add a unique element to the mix: generating return for investors.

This additional ingredient gives the organizational culture at for-profits a subtly but significantly different flavor than the atmosphere at their nonprofit counterparts, says Yvette Doran, chief operating officer at Saint Thomas Medical Partners in Nashville, TN.

“When I think of the differences, culture is at the top of my list. The culture at for-profits is business-driven. The culture at nonprofits is service-driven,” she says.

Doran says the differences between for-profits and nonprofits reflect cultural nuances rather than cultural divides. “Good hospitals need both. Without the business aspects on one hand, and the service aspects on the other, you can’t function well.”

There are five primary differences between for-profit and nonprofit hospitals.

1. Tax Status

The most obvious difference between nonprofit and for-profit hospitals is tax status, and it has a major impact financially on hospitals and the communities they serve.

Hospital payment of local and state taxes is a significant benefit for municipal and state governments, says Gary D. Willis, CPA, a former for-profit health system CFO who currently serves as CFO at Amedisys Inc., a home health, hospice, and personal care company in Baton Rouge, LA. The taxes that for-profit hospitals pay support “local schools, development of roads, recruitment of business and industry, and other needed services,” he says.

The financial burden of paying taxes influences corporate culture—emphasizing cost consciousness and operational discipline, says Andrew Slusser, senior vice president at Brentwood, TN-based RCCH Healthcare Partners.

“For-profit hospitals generally have to be more cost-efficient because of the financial hurdles they have to clear: sales taxes, property taxes, all the taxes nonprofits don’t have to worry about,” he says.

“One of the initiatives we’ve had success with—in both new and existing hospitals—is to conduct an Operations Assessment Team survey. It’s in essence a deep dive into all operational costs to see where efficiencies may have been missed before. We often discover we’re able to eliminate duplicative costs, stop doing work that’s no longer adding value, or in some cases actually do more with less,” Slusser says.

2. Operational Discipline

With positive financial performance among the primary goals of shareholders and the top executive leadership, operational discipline is one of the distinguishing characteristics of for-profit hospitals, says Neville Zar, senior vice president of revenue operations at Boston-based Steward Health Care System, a for-profit that includes 3,500 physicians and 18 hospital campuses in four states.

At Steward, we believe we’ve done a good job establishing operational discipline. It means accountability. It means predictability. It means responsibility. It’s like hygiene. You wake up, brush your teeth, and this is part of what you do every day.”

A revenue-cycle dashboard report is circulated at Steward every Monday morning at 7 a.m., including point-of-service cash collections, patient coverage eligibility for government programs such as Medicaid, and productivity metrics, he says. “There’s predictability with that.”

A high level of accountability fuels operational discipline at Steward and other for-profits, Zar says.

There is no ignoring the financial numbers at Steward, which installed wide-screen TVs in most business offices four years ago to post financial performance information in real-time. “There are updates every 15 minutes. You can’t hide in your cube,” he says. “There was a 15% to 20% improvement in efficiency after those TVs went up.”

3. Financial Pressure

Accountability for financial performance flows from the top of for-profit health systems and hospitals, says Dick Escue, senior vice president and chief information officer at the Hawaii Medical Service Association in Honolulu.

Escue worked for many years at a rehabilitation services organization that for-profit Kindred Healthcare of Louisville, Kentucky, acquired in 2011. “We were a publicly traded company. At a high level, quarterly, our CEO and CFO were going to New York to report to analysts. You never want to go there and disappoint. … You’re not going to keep your job as the CEO or CFO of a publicly traded company if you produce results that disappoint.”

Finance team members at for-profits must be willing to push themselves to meet performance goals, Zar says.

“Steward is a very driven organization. It’s not 9-to-5 hours. Everybody in healthcare works hard, but we work really hard. We’re driven by each quarter, by each month. People will work the weekend at the end of the month or the end of the quarter to put in the extra hours to make sure we meet our targets. There’s a lot of focus on the financial results, from the senior executives to the worker bees. We’re not ashamed of it.”

“Cash blitzes” are one method Steward’s revenue cycle team uses to boost revenue when financial performance slips, he says. Based on information gathered during team meetings at the hospital level, the revenue cycle staff focuses a cash blitz on efforts that have a high likelihood of generating cash collections, including tackling high-balance accounts and addressing payment delays linked to claims processing such as clinical documentation queries from payers.

For-profit hospitals routinely utilize monetary incentives in the compensation packages of the C-Suite leadership, says Brian B. Sanderson, managing principal of healthcare services at Oak Brook, IL–based Crowe Horwath LLP.

“The compensation structures in the for-profits tend to be much more incentive-based than compensation at not-for-profits,” he says. “Senior executive compensation is tied to similar elements as found in other for-profit environments, including stock price and margin on operations.”

In contrast to offering generous incentives that reward robust financial performance, for-profits do not hesitate to cut costs in lean times, Escue says.

“The rigor around spending, whether it’s capital spending, operating spending, or payroll, is more intense at for-profits. The things that got cut when I worked in the back office of a for-profit were overhead. There was constant pressure to reduce overhead,” he says. “Contractors and consultants are let go, at least temporarily. Hiring is frozen, with budgeted openings going unfilled. Any other budgeted, but not committed, spending is frozen.”

4. Scale

The for-profit hospital sector is highly concentrated.

There are 4,862 community hospitals in the country, according to the American Hospital Association. Nongovernmental not-for-profit hospitals account for the largest number of facilities at 2,845. There are 1,034 for-profit hospitals, and 983 state and local government hospitals.

In 2016, the country’s for-profit hospital trade association, the Washington, DC–based Federation of American Hospitals, represented a dozen health systems that owned about 635 hospitals. Four of the FAH health systems accounted for about 520 hospitals: Franklin, TN-based Community Hospital Systems (CHS); Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America; Brentwood, TN–based LifePoint Health; and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

Scale generates several operational benefits at for-profit hospitals.

“Scale is critically important,” says Julie Soekoro, CFO at Grandview Medical Center, a CHS-owned, 372-bed hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. “What we benefit from at Grandview is access to resources and expertise. I really don’t use consultants at Grandview because we have corporate expertise for challenges like ICD-10 coding. That is a tremendous benefit.”

Grandview also benefits from the best practices that have been shared and standardized across the 146 CHS hospitals. “Best practices can have a direct impact on value,” Soekoro says. “The infrastructure is there. For-profits are well-positioned for the consolidated healthcare market of the future… You can add a lot of individual hospitals without having to add expertise at the corporate office.”

The High Reliability and Safety program at CHS is an example of how standardizing best practices across the health system’s hospitals has generated significant performance gains, she says.

“A few years ago, CHS embarked on a journey to institute a culture of high reliability at the hospitals. The hospitals and affiliated organizations have worked to establish safety as a ‘core value.’ At Grandview, we have hard-wired a number of initiatives, including daily safety huddles and multiple evidence-based, best-practice error prevention methods.”

Scale also plays a crucial role in one of the most significant advantages of for-profit hospitals relative to their nonprofit counterparts: access to capital.

Ready access to capital gives for-profits the ability to move faster than their nonprofit counterparts, Sanderson says. “They’re finding that their access to capital is a linchpin for them. … When a for-profit has better access to capital, it can make decisions rapidly and make investments rapidly. Many not-for-profits don’t have that luxury.”

5. Competitive Edge

There are valuable lessons for nonprofits to draw from the for-profit business model as the healthcare industry shifts from volume to value.

When healthcare providers negotiate managed care contracts, for-profits have a bargaining advantage over nonprofits, Doran says. “In managed care contracts, for profits look for leverage and nonprofits look for partnership opportunities. The appetite for aggressive negotiations is much more palatable among for-profits.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coalition of 181 CEOs say society should matter alongside profit

Chief executives who are members of the Business Roundtable, include, left to right, front row: Julie Sweet of Accenture North America, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Tim Cook of Apple, Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners of Austin. Back row: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mary Barra of General Motors and Larry Fink of BlackRock.

Nearly 200 chief executives, including the leaders of Apple, Pepsi and Walmart, tried on Monday to redefine the role of business in society — and how companies are perceived by an increasingly skeptical public.

Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.

“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” the group, a lobbying organization that represents many of America’s largest companies, said in a statement. “We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

The shift comes at a moment of increasing distress in corporate America, as big companies face mounting global discontent over income inequality, harmful products and poor working conditions.

On the Democratic presidential campaign trail, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been vocal about the role of big business in perpetuating problems with economic mobility and climate change. Lawmakers are looking into the dominance of technology companies like Amazon and Facebook.

There was no mention at the Roundtable of curbing executive compensation, a lightning-rod topic when the highest-paid 100 chief executives make 254 times the salary of an employee receiving the median pay at their company. And hardly a week goes by without a major company getting drawn into a contentious political debate. As consumers and employees hold companies to higher ethical standards, big brands increasingly have to defend their positions on worker pay, guns, immigration, President Trump and more.

“They’re responding to something in the zeitgeist,” said Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School. “They perceive that business as usual is no longer acceptable. It’s an open question whether any of these companies will change the way they do business.”

The Business Roundtable did not provide specifics on how it would carry out its newly stated ideals, offering more of a mission statement than a plan of action. But the companies pledged to compensate employees fairly and provide “important benefits,” as well as training and education. They also vowed to “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses” and “foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”

It was an explicit rebuke of the notion that the role of the corporation is to maximize profits at all costs — the philosophy that has held sway on Wall Street and in the boardroom for 50 years. Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist who is the doctrine’s most revered figure, famously wrote in The New York Times in 1970 that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.”

This mind-set informed the corporate raiders of the 1980s and contributed to an unswerving focus on quarterly earnings reports. It found its way into pop culture, when in the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gekko declared, “Greed is good.” More recently, it inspired a new generation of activist investors who pushed companies to slash jobs as a way to enrich themselves.

“The ideology of shareholder primacy has contributed to the economic inequality we see today in America,” Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a Pepsi board member, said in an interview. “The Chicago school of economics is so embedded in the psyche of investors and legal theory and the C.E.O. mind-set. Overcoming that won’t be easy.”

The Business Roundtable included its own articulation of the theory in an official doctrine in 1997, writing that “the paramount duty of management and of boards of directors is to the corporation’s stockholders.” Each version of its principles published over the last 20 years has stated that corporations exist principally to serve their shareholders.

But by last year, the Business Roundtable’s language was out of step with the times. Many chief executives, including BlackRock’s Larry Fink, had begun calling on companies to be more responsible. Businesses were pledging to fight climate change, reduce income inequality and improve public health. And at gatherings like the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the discussions often centered on how businesses could help solve thorny global problems.

“The threshold has moved substantially for what people expect from a company,” Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in an interview. “It’s more than just producing profits for the shareholders.”

Last year, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase and the chairman of the Business Roundtable, began an effort to update its principles. “We looked at this thing that was written in 1997 and we didn’t agree with it,” Mr. Dimon said in an interview. “It didn’t fairly describe what we think our jobs are.”

Mr. Dimon proposed making a formal revision to the annual statement at a Business Roundtable board meeting in Washington this spring. It then fell to Alex Gorsky, the chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, who runs the group’s governance committee, to create the language.

“There were times when I felt like Thomas Jefferson,” Mr. Gorsky said in an interview.

While the group cast the change in language as an embrace of new corporate ideals, it was also a tacit acknowledgment of the heightened pressures facing companies across the country — including many that signed the document.

In 2017, after the president’s initially tepid response to the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Va., the chief executives of several major companies disbanded White House business advisory groups in protest. Walmart, the nation’s largest gun seller, is under pressure after a series of mass shootings, including the recent massacre at its store in El Paso. Amazon, the giant online retailer, is facing scrutiny from lawmakers who say it avoids paying taxes and uses its dominance to hurt competitors.

And protesters have mobilized across the country to call for a higher minimum wage.

For companies to truly make good on their lofty promises, they will need Wall Street to embrace their idealism, too. Until investors start measuring companies by their social impact instead of their quarterly returns, systemic change may prove elusive.

Nowhere has the new scrutiny on corporations been more pronounced than on the presidential campaign trail. On Monday, Mr. Sanders said in an interview that the Business Roundtable was “feeling the pressure from working families all over the country.”

“I don’t believe what they’re saying for a moment,” he said. “If they were sincere, they would talk about raising the minimum wage in this country to a living wage, the need for the rich and powerful to pay their fair share of taxes.”

In a statement Monday, Ms. Warren called the announcement “a welcome change” but cautioned that “without real action, it’s meaningless.

“These big corporations can start following through on their words by paying workers more instead of spending billions on buybacks,” she said.

While the new statement of purpose represents a sizable shift from the group’s longstanding principles, it was not the first time Business Roundtable had taken a position on a social issue. Last August, the group denounced President Trump’s immigration policies, describing family separations as “cruel and contrary to American values.”

Monday’s statement represented an even broader shift, signaling companies’ willingness to engage on issues of pay, diversity and environmental protection. Several of the executives who signed the letter said the group would soon offer more detailed proposals on how corporations can live up to the ideals it outlined, rather than focusing purely on economic policies.

“It’s a real divergence considering everything we’ve done in the past has been around policy,” said Chuck Robbins, the chief executive of Cisco, who is on the group’s board, adding, “This is just the first piece.”

The executives quickly pointed out that they had not forgotten about investors.

“You can provide great returns for your shareholders and great benefits for your employees and run your business in a responsible way,” said Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America.

But the statement’s lack of specific proposals also drew skepticism.

“If the Business Roundtable is serious, it should tomorrow throw its weight behind legislative proposals that would put the teeth of the law into these boardroom platitudes,” said Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.” “Corporate magnanimity and voluntary virtue are not going to solve these problems.”

 

 

 

One of the constants of healthcare: Rising executive pay

https://www.modernhealthcare.com/executive-compensation/one-constants-healthcare-rising-executive-pay?utm_source=modern-healthcare-daily-dose-wednesday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190807&utm_content=article4-readmore

Average total cash compensation for health system executives rose 6.5% from 2018 to 2019, extending a consistent rise in executive pay that governance experts do not expect to slow.

Annual and long-term performance-based incentives have driven pay hikes of 4% to 7% each of the last four years, according to Modern Healthcare’s annual Executive Compensation Survey. Health systems’ ongoing expansions coupled with a highly competitive executive market will continue to drive up their base salaries and bonuses, experts said. But this dynamic is drawing ire from rank-and-file employees who aren’t happy with their pay and from consumers who are spending more on their care. It is also spurring new legislation.

Nevertheless, with baby boomers retiring in large numbers and demand soaring, the pay hikes aren’t going away anytime soon. “Healthcare organizations are becoming more complex and leadership skills are evolving,” which often translates to higher pay, said Bruce Greenblatt, a managing principal at SullivanCotter, the compensation consulting firm that has supplied data for Modern Healthcare’s annual surveys since 2003.

“Qualified talent is in short supply, which requires a deliberate approach to talent strategy as new roles emerge and new responsibilities unfold,” he said.

Providers look to select metrics and targets that will shape their organization for years to come. In doing so, they toe a delicate line ensuring their bonuses are attainable to keep executives engaged while not making them out of reach and damaging morale.

With more pay based on performance, there’s greater risk of poor program design, said Steve Sullivan, a managing director at executive compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer. If you make a mistake, there is a lot of money on the line, he said.

“You don’t want to have giveaways and you don’t want to have plans so egregiously hard that they never have payouts because executives will disengage from the program,” Sullivan said. “You have to strike a balance between responsible compensation and something that is motivating and incenting.”

Larger systems paying more

Health system executives’ average base salaries increased 4.2% and ticked up even higher among organizations with more than $3 billion in revenue based in high-cost cities, according to Modern Healthcare’s 39th Executive Compensation Survey, made up of data aggregated from 1,149 hospitals and 401 health systems. System CEOs earned an average total cash compensation of $1.4 million in 2019, a 6.3% increase.

Executives who saw the highest total cash compensation hikes of 6.6% up to 13.3% were business development officers, administrative officers, internal audit executives, chief financial officers, planning executives, reimbursement executives, chief nursing officers, chief human resources officers and chief operating officers.

Incentives are typically tiered with a minimum threshold, a target and a stretch goal. They are often based on quality, safety and patient experience as well as financial performance. They may be related to ambulatory market share, employee and patient engagement, facilitating access to capital, bolstering physician alignment, inking successful joint partnerships and mergers, emergency department wait times and utilization, population health, shared risk, readmissions, hospital-acquired infections and length of stay, among other metrics.

The types of incentives offered are heavily dependent on the provider and the market. Some hospitals and health systems have stuck to the more traditional financial and market-share-based measurements, while more progressive organizations are targeting outcomes.

The bonuses differ based on short- and long-term goals, the latter becoming more prominent in recent years as boards and compensation committees emphasize the entire organization’s performance. Sometimes there is a trigger, such as operating margin, where executives miss out on all bonuses if it isn’t reached. For instance, Mercy Health, which is now Bon Secours Mercy Health, did not pay executives an incentive in 2016 since the system did not reach its incentive thresholds, the Cincinnati-based Catholic health system said.

“You want to make sure everyone is rolling in the right direction,” said Tom Giella, chairman of healthcare services for executive recruiter Korn Ferry. “You want to do what is right for the system, not an individual hospital or inpatient versus outpatient. It creates an incentive for everyone to work together.”

But even if the baseline isn’t reached, there typically isn’t a penalty, experts said. It will only lower their earning potential. “In some industries there can be a negative adjustment,” Sullivan said. “I haven’t seen that in healthcare. In healthcare, if there is a modifier it is going to be positive.”

Long-term view

Nearly half of larger health systems surveyed report using long-term incentive plans.

Dignity Health said a “substantial portion” of executive compensation is linked to organizational performance related to key clinical-quality and patient-satisfaction measures as well as community health investments and financial performance. Similarly, Kaiser Permanente said a third to half of pay is based on performance, linked to membership growth, expenses, operating income, and clinical and service quality improvements. Bon Secours Mercy said each of its employees are rewarded under the same incentive program, which includes quality, growth, financial and community benefit targets.

More providers are using deferred compensation programs, which can amount to hefty payouts at the end of an executive’s tenure.

In a related Modern Healthcare analysis of more than 2,000 not-for-profit hospitals, the 25 highest-paid not-for-profit health system executives received a combined 33.2% increase in total compensation in 2017, as their compensation rose to $197.9 million from $148.6 million in 2016.

The pay increases have spawned rallies and protests from more than 1,000 employees at Beaumont Health and Providence St. Joseph Health, both of which had chief executives in the top 25. Beaumont and Providence said in prepared statements that their CEO pay are not outliers compared to their peers.

California policymakers introduced a bill, recently passed by a state Senate subcommittee, that aims to boost not-for-profit health systems’ public disclosure requirements for executives’ deferred compensation.

“What surprises people I think as compensation becomes very generous because it is a competitive market, some think a hospital administrator shouldn’t expect to make more than the average physician,” said Paul Keckley, an industry consultant and managing editor of the Keckley Report. “Those days are long gone.”

Executives’ pay along with their respective C-suites are growing as health systems expand. New C-suite positions in 2019 included reimbursement executive, communications executive, academic affairs executive and operations executive, according to SullivanCotter’s data.

Physician leaders continue to be in high demand as providers look to influence clinical delivery redesign, population heath activities and quality improvement, said Tom Pavlik, a managing principal at SullivanCotter. Administrative roles in finance, consumer experience, IT, marketing and human resources are being filled by healthcare industry outsiders, he said.

“There is a lot of change as organizations are realigning to be operationally efficient and integrate clinical care delivery,” Pavlik said.

Among hospital executives, average base salaries rose 3.7% for hospitals that exceeded $300 million in revenue compared to 3.2% for smaller facilities. System-owned hospitals saw slightly lower base salary hikes than independent ones.

Average total compensation increased 5.3%, while CEOs of independent hospitals took home the highest raises at 9.2%, followed by chief financial officers of independent hospitals (6.5%), chief operating officers of system-owned hospitals (5.8%) and chief financial officers of system-owned hospitals (5.3%). Independent hospital CEOs earned an average of $758,300.

Providers rely on third-party consultants for accurate portrayals of market-based compensation reports that inform their compensation structures. But some of Pearl Meyer’s prospective clients are concerned about how their current adviser is interpreting the market, Sullivan said.

“With all the M&A, you have to create larger peer groups to generate a bigger sample,” he said.

This is a relatively new dynamic as the number of megasystems have swelled, Giella said.

“There is a war for talent and a big demand as systems have amalgamated so quickly,” he said. “They are getting through these growing pains where they have never dealt with this scale before, so it’s hard to look at historical trends. It’s very fluid so it’s hard to tell if you are paying someone fair compensation.”

One of Keckley’s regional health system clients told him that they are trying to figure out the most efficient and lean model.

“When I asked him what is keeping him awake, he said, ‘I want to be sure we are market-focused and that we are not just busy moving the deck chairs around.’ ”

DATA: Executive Compensation: 2019

 

 

 

Aligning executive comp with long-term strategy

https://mailchi.mp/3675b0fcd5fd/the-weekly-gist-july-12-2019?e=d1e747d2d8

Image result for long term decision making

I recently had a conversation with the CEO of a regional health system we’ve worked with for many years. It’s a system at the forefront of the shift to risk-based contracting—rather than the 3-5 percent of revenue at risk common across the industry, his system already has a third of its revenue fully at risk. (That’s not counting performance bonuses and other “value-based” reimbursement—it’s true, delegated risk for total cost of care.)

The system managed to get to this point without owning its own insurance plan, but now the CEO is considering whether that’s the right next step, which was the topic of our discussion. We talked through the pros and cons of launching a provider-sponsored plan, which has proven to be a difficult step for many other health systems.

When I asked the CEO how his team was able to move so much faster to risk than other systems, he told me an important component of their approach was the incentive structure put in place for executives and facility leaders. Rather than continuing to pay bonuses based on hospital or system profitability, the board agreed to encourage executives to take a longer-term, strategic view by paying straight salary.

Eliminating P&L-based bonuses allowed leaders to focus on making the right decisions to transform the business, without being overly concerned about the short-term impact on profitability. It’s an idea worth considering for other systems committed to leaving fee-for-service behind. The critical ingredient, of course, is ensuring the board is fully bought into the strategy and has a high degree of trust in system executives to make the best long-term decisions on behalf of the organization.