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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

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Elon Musk: Autopilot feature wasn't enabled in fatal Texas crash

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that "data logs recovered so far" show the car's Autopilot feature was not enabled — and it did not have access to "full self-driving mode" — in the deadly crash in Texas involving the company's electric vehicle.

Background: Local investigators said they believed the car was operating without anyone in the driver's seat. At the time of death, one man was in the passenger seat, while another was in the rear seat, KPRC 2 reports.