A new analysis finds that top executives at 177 major American healthcare companies collectively made approximately $2.6 billion in 2018 alone.
According to the analysis, which was conducted by Axios, the median pay of a healthcare CEO in 2018 was $7.7 million, when accounting for salary, stock compensation, and estimated fair value of those companies’ stock. Based on information from healthcare companies’ 2018 tax filings compiled on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s website, Axios examined the total compensation of top executives at 177 different health insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies.
The highest-paid CEO on the list is Leonard Schleifer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, who took home $117.8 million in actual realized stock gains. The other nine-figure CEO is R. Milton Johnson of HCA Healthcare, who made $109 million in total compensation last year. 15 CEOs on the list made at least $46 million, and 72 CEOs of healthcare companies made at least eight figures in total compensation in 2018 alone.
Surprisingly, several celebrity CEOs of healthcare companies known for either heading well-known companies or who have taken actions that angered the public ranked relatively far down on the compensation list, at least in comparison to CEOs like Schleifer and Johnson. Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals — and daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) — made $8 million last year, despite creating outrage over her company hiking the price of the Epi-Pen in 2016. Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks — whose company was sued over sky-high insulin prices — made $14 million.
The pay of executives at healthcare companies comes in stark contrast to federal funding for research into diseases for which there is still not yet a cure. For example Alzheimer’s research conducted by the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2018 cost $1.8 billion.
These pay packages would undoubtedly be lower if Medicare for All legislation proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) passed. If either bill passed and became law, a new, single-payer healthcare system would be established in the United States that would cover all primary care expenses, hospital stays, as well as long-term care for seniors. This would not only make private health insurance companies obsolete, but American drug manufacturers would suddenly be forced to compete with other countries, as the U.S. would be allowed to negotiate drug prices across international borders.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.