The Salaries Of Insurance and Pharma CEOs


Leonard Zwelling

My colleagues at the Physicians for a National Health Program, the single payer folks, just published this list of the top earners among the executives of the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. Many of these men (yes it’s all men) make in excess of $100-200,000 per day. To be honest, no one is worth that! And certainly not these guys!

If you really want to cut the cost of American health care, here is a real good place to start. In general, health care in the United States costs too much. Each procedure costs far more than in any other country, whether surgical or diagnostic imaging. The drugs cost too much and their prices are on the rise. Those prices are not linked to the benefit derived from the drugs, but rather to what the market will bear.

Forgive me, but doctors make too much. Oh, not primary care docs or pediatricians, but surgeons and radiologists and anesthesiologists all make way more than is called for, but that’s the market and we still have a capitalistic system in the United States. But, are we deriving value?

When the statistics on average life span, infant mortality and self-induced disease costs are factored in, it’s not even close. We in medicine are doing a less than an optimal job of caring for the health and well-being of the American people. The only people doing less well than we, are the people themselves who eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much, overuse all kinds of drugs and drive like maniacs while texting.

PNHP can point the finger at these executives with impunity, but until there is some sense that we need to have an American health care system that cares for everyone at reasonable cost and with reasonable quality, this will go on. Health care is capitalism run wild and we should not be surprised that some people are taking advantage of that by reaping big dollars.

It is up to Congress to change things if it wishes because changing things means exiting the capitalistic delivery of health care via non-risk-based insurance to a single payer system where people get what they need from their insurance and what they want in addition they pay for themselves. Then let’s see how the competitive markets sort out. They will still exist, but they will be much smaller, much pricier and I am willing to bet the life expectancy of the average American might even go up if we teach kids how to eat, run, read and not take drugs starting at age 5.

What a concept! Maybe then one child will grow up to be a rational president and not want to be the CEO of Humana.

Leonard Zwelling