Steven Brill
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The new winner of the hospital CEO salary awards: $72 per patient day

Mercy Health via YouTube

I owe Norman Roth an apology. Last week I wrote that that the $2.9 million that Greenwich Hospital paid him for running the small southern Connecticut unit of the Yale New Haven Health System — which amounted to $56.40 for every night someone spent in his hospital — was the highest pay per patient day of any hospital CEO I had ever seen.

Well, it was until a disgruntled employee of the Mercy Health System, based in Janesville, Wisconsin, wrote to tell me about Mercy CEO Javon Bea. His $8,044,000 earnings for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 (which covers the latest Mercy report on file with the IRS) to run the mid-sized Mercy system amounted to a whopping $72.02 per patient day.

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Stay in a hospital, pay the CEO $56 a night

Norman Roth has a great job. He's the CEO of the relatively small Greenwich Hospital in southern Connecticut, and for each night patients stayed at his hospital in 2015, he got paid $56.40.

That's the most extreme case I've seen in my years of writing about the health care economy, where executives are paid far more than they are in just about any other industry. But it's hardly the only case of sky-high hospital CEO salaries. And it's a good reminder that the debate over the future of Obamacare has to do with insurance to cover the costs of an industry that operates in a kind of alternate universe compared to the rest of the American economy.

That's why, to help Axios kick off its coverage of the health care economy, I've done the first research that allows us to see how much the CEOs of the biggest hospital systems got paid for each day a patient spends in their hospital. It's a new benchmark that lets us see not just how much they're making, but how much they're costing their patients.

CEO Pay per Patient Day: 20 Largest Hospital Systems

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The drug industry’s opinions about its products may soon be protected, too

Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As I wrote yesterday, the drug industry is likely soon to be free of its restrictions on off-label promotions. But it's actually looking at a bigger prize than just sending doctors dense medical journal articles about the potential benefits of off-label uses. It wants to be able to express opinions about its drugs — to doctors and even consumers — and have them be protected as free speech.

If that happens, experts say, watch out — because that gets rid of any incentive to do safety or effectiveness studies at all.

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It's open season for off-label drug promotion

AP/File photo

The pharmaceutical industry has been fighting for years to end restrictions on how they can market drugs for off-label uses — and now, under President Trump, the end of those restrictions is a near-certainty.

That's partly because Trump is sure to nominate a business-friendly replacement for Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and partly because of the long-standing support for off-label marketing by Scott Gottlieb, the new president's most likely choice to run the Food and Drug Administration. Read on for more details.

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How Tom Price could pull plug on health care savings

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


If Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price survives the conflict of interest and insider trading charges swirling around him as his confirmation hearings start today, he will soon have the power to eliminate the Obama administration's cost-savings initiatives that have been bitterly opposed by the most powerful players in the health care industry.

Why this will happen and what it means:

  • Price opposed the cost control programs while a member of Congress.
  • Killing them wouldn't take legislation — he simply has to cancel the Obama team's experiments under the Affordable Care Act aimed at cutting the fees Medicare pays.
  • It would be the ignominious end to a central, if not wholly successful, part of Obamacare's strategy to rein in health-care costs.

Although Price declined through a spokesperson to say whether he will scrap the initiatives, his record as a Republican congressman from Georgia makes it clear that he'll do so quickly. In fact, the Obama administration already ended one program because, according to one administration official, it was obvious Price was going to kill it anyway. More details on the scope of the program and what will end below.