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Don’t blame health costs on M.D.s

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, June 13, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

Feeling kind of nauseous at the cost of health care these days?

Don't blame your doctor.

According to a new report for The New York Times and compiled by Compdata Surveys, the nation's highly trained physicians run in the middle of the pack where earnings are concerned, their average salaries dwarfed by those of health insurance executives and hospital head honchos.

Meet the medical money makers

According to the report, the annual average base salaries for various health-related job titles break out t© Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock.comhis way:

  • CEO of health/disability insurance firms: $583,700
  • Hospital CEO: $386,000
  • Hospital administrator: $236,800
  • General physician: $185,000
  • Family-practice physician: $165,300
  • Physical therapist: $78,100
  • Audiologist: $72,600
  • Staff nurse: $61,900
  • Emergency medical technician: $27,400

However, the operative word in this earnings chart is "base" salary. That's because those already making well above physician's scale in salary alone typically earn most of their income in non-salary forms of compensation, such as bonuses and stock options.

Take Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna. In 2012, he earned a salary of $977,000. But throw in the full package and his total compensation topped $36 million, mostly in stocks vested and options he exercised that year.

Move down in scale and the same holds true. For example, Ronald Del Mauro, who previously headed New Jersey's midsize Barnabas Health system, earned a measly $28,000 in salary. His total compensation? A far-from-measly $21.7 million.

The bottom line

The report notes that the United States outspends every other country on the planet when it comes to health care, a whopping $2.7 trillion annually.

Seems a little out of whack, doesn't it? Especially given these newfangled things called computers that do most of our heavy administrative lifting these days.

In other countries, the report points out, top-ranked hospitals have only skeleton administrative staffs, and health care workers are paid far below U.S. standards. Where the United States currently spends $606 per person on health insurance administration, France spends $277, Germany $237, Canada $148 and Norway $35.

"The pay for the top five or 10 executives at insurers is pretty astounding -- way more than a highly trained surgeon," says Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for policy research and evaluation at the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that focuses on health care. She told the Times: "At large hospitals, there are senior VPs, VPs of this, that and the other. Each one of them is paid more than before, and more than in any other country."

Maybe that's why U.S. employers are shifting a greater share of the health care costs onto their workers.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.

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June 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

Don't forget all the lawyers. Not only are we paying their salaries in suit settlements, but also in unnecessary tests to prevent lawsuits.

Dr. Cliff
June 13, 2014 at 8:46 am

The sad part that is missing from this article is the fact that Many of these insurance companies are being subsidized with taxpayer dollars on the federal level. The hospital systems are not only subsidized by the feds, but thru "state" university systems. And yes, many states even subsidize the physician's malpractice thru consumer "fee funds" that are attached to traffic citations and such. They are all double dipping the consumer and gaming the "free money" system.