The 64 health care CEOs in the S&P 500 cumulatively made almost $1.7 billion in 2017, according to a new Axios analysis of their compensation. That total is 74% higher than the $949 million that is normally highlighted in company proxy documents.

The details: Within the compensation totals, Axios' Bob Herman calculated the actual realized gains of CEOs’ stock options and awards (shares that were actually exercised and taxed), versus the estimated fair value of their stock (a guess of future stock value that is prominently featured in SEC filings and headlines).

  • Actual realized gains is a more accurate representation of an executive’s take-home income.
Expand chart
Data: Axios analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon, Kerrie Vila, Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Winners: Neal Patterson, the former CEO of health IT firm Cerner, was the highest-paid health care CEO, with $148.6 million in compensation in 2017. Patterson died last year from cancer, so his stock ownership immediately vested. After him, these were the highest-paid CEOs based on actual realized gains:

  1. Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron: $95.3 million
  2. Dave Wichmann, UnitedHealth Group: $83.2 million
  3. Jeff Leiden, Vertex Pharmaceuticals: $78.5 million
  4. John Hammergren, McKesson: $63.2 million
  5. Mark Bertolini, Aetna: $58.7 million

The other side: Several company spokespeople said the CEO pay packages represent the companies’ strong stock market growth and years of awarded shares.

  • As an example, UnitedHealth spokesperson Tyler Mason said Wichmann’s pay “reflects the positive performance of the company over many years” and that Wichmann reinvested a lot of his payout into more UnitedHealth stock.

The bottom line: Many health care CEOs, and other top executives at large companies, make more than you think.

Go deeper: The entire S&P 500.

Go deeper

Updated 51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Chris Christie: Wear a mask "or you may regret it — as I did" — Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted relief bill.
  2. Business: New state unemployment filings fall.
  3. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  4. Health: FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment How the pandemic might endMany U.S. deaths were avoidable.
  5. Education: Boston and Chicago send students back home for online learning.
  6. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.

FBI: Russian hacking group stole data after targeting local governments

FBI Headquarters. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Energetic Bear, a Russian state-sponsored hacking group, has stolen data from two servers after targeting state and federal government networks in the U.S. since at least September, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said on Thursday.

Driving the news: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information that could be used to undermine confidence in the U.S. election system.

FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment

A production line of Remdesivir. Photo: Fadel Dawood/picture alliance via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences on Thursday received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that has shown modest results against treating COVID-19.

Why it matters: It's the first and only fully FDA-approved drug in the U.S. for treating the coronavirus.