Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Stock-heavy pay drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value,'" writes Axios's Bob Herman. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr/cc)

'Obscene': 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked in $9.8 Billion Since 2010

"The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."

Jake Johnson

While the Senate GOP's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been denounced as potentially devastating to the poor, the sick, women, people of color, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, a new analysis published Monday finds that no matter what happens, the CEOs of large healthcare companies are likely to continue living lavishly.

"The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."
—Bob Herman, Axios

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, the "CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. healthcare companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion," according to a report by Axios's Bob Herman.

Herman goes on to add that the CEOs' earnings "far outstrip[ped] the wage growth of nearly all Americans."

"The richest year [for healthcare CEOs] was 2015, when 70 healthcare CEOs collectively made $2 billion," Herman notes. "That was an average of about $28.5 million per CEO and a median of about $17.3 million per CEO. The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day."

John Martin, former CEO of the pharma giant Gilead Sciences, topped Axios's list: he pulled in $863 million in the "ACA era."

Despite President Donald Trump's repeated insistence that Obamacare has been a "nightmare" and that the entire system is collapsing, Herman observes, "The ACA has not hurt the healthcare industry. Stock prices have boomed, and CEOs took home nearly 11 percent more money on average every year since 2010." And the Senate GOP's alternative, which Trump has enthusiastically endorsed, would likely be a further boon to industry executives, who would stand to benefit from the bill's massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Axios's analysis focused on 70 of the largest publicly traded healthcare companies—including some of the largest insurance and pharmaceutical companies—in the United States.

Perhaps the most consequential component of healthcare CEO pay, Herman observes, is the fact that "a gigantic portion of what CEOs make comes in the form of vested stock, and those incentives drive their decision-making."

This means that CEOs are incentivized not to take actions that would benefit the healthcare system overall, but rather to "inflate stock prices" using methods "such as repurchasing shares or issuing dividends to shareholders."

Such moves lead to higher salaries for CEOs, but not to widely shared benefits.

"Stock-heavy pay," Herman concludes, "drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value.'"

Some commentators portrayed the analysis as both indicative of the fundamental injustice at the heart of the for-profit insurance model and proof of the need for Medicare for All.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·


Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Denounces a Pentagon Budget System Found 'Inherently Susceptible to Fraud'

"They don't seem to want to get serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively," said the Vermont senator, declaring it "absolutely unacceptable."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo