Evan Levine, M.D.

Healthcare - A behind the scenes look

Dr. Evan Levine

Dr. Evan Levine
March 17
Author of What Your Doctor Won't (or Can't) Tell You - Penguin Publishing. Fellow of American College of Cardiology and practicing cardiologist in Bronx and Westchester New York. Today Show Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63cWvtGPonU Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vanlev


MAY 15, 2011 9:49PM

Sloan-Kettering asks for donations, pays CEO 4.4 million

Rate: 12 Flag
sloan2      Sloan begs you for donations and pays its exec almost 4.5 million
     Sloan-Kettering is soliciting money to help cure cancer , or so the young lady told me this week when I walked into Stop-N-Shop to purchase some groceries.   In the front of the store there was a young woman asking my friend and I  ( he had just helped me open my pool and save some much needed money ) to purchase some raffle  tickets; each cost a dollar and we were told that the money would go to Sloan-Kettering to  help the indigent and unfortunate children with cancer and for research that might cure cancer one day.  My friend, Ted, purchased five and I, not to disappoint my friend who seemed delighted with the idea that he was helping some ill person, purchased one. 
     What Ted did not know, and I did not have the heart to tell him, is that just a day before, and while eating lunch I had opened an e-mail sent to me from a friend that highlighted the highest five salaries of both administrators and  physicians at Sloan-Kettering.  As I read this, mindful that my salary and most other decent physicians has plummeted in the past few years, I lost my appetite. 
     While Sloan-Kettering is begging all of  us to give our precious dollars, and while most of us are struggling in the current recession, their doctors and administrators are taking home millions of dollars!  The president and CEO of Sloan-Kettering, Harold Varmus,  took home over 4.4 million dollars in 2009 - that's a heck of a lot of money for a not-for-profit anything and a heck of a lot of raffle sales. If we include the other top earners then it would come to roughly, give or take a million raffle tickets, about 20,000,000 in salary for 2009.
     In comparison, the much maligned former president of NPR,  Vivian Schiller , earned about $560,000 dollars in 2010. Yet, Ms. Schiller and her NPR colleagues took a lot of heat for their salaries.  I haven't heard a whisper about the salary of Harold Varmus, have you?
     Frankly, I think the execs at Sloan-Kettering are undeserving , overcompensated  gluttons and that someone should demand that  their salaries be lowered out of the stratosphere.If the execs are not happy with just making a million of so dollars they are certainly welcome to join the unemployment line; someone else with wonderful credentials, and probably much more empathy for the sick, will eagerly fill their spot. Instead, Sloan-Kettering  is sending young kids out to beg for money, for the sick and needy, or the fat and wealthy.  
    If just the top  ten paying administrators and doctors at Sloan,  no one knows much about the others whose salaries could also be in the millions since non-profits are only required to list the top five doctor's and top five administrator's salaries, reduced their salary to a measly million a year there would be an additional $10,000,000 dollars to treat cancer.
     It appears to me that the only ones who can fix this debacle are people like you, and me, and Ted.  If we all stop giving to not-for-profits that overcompensate their executive staff then we could force them to reduce the salaries of these execs and spend more of their resources on patient care.
     As I finished writing this article I realized that Dr Varmus no longer works for this non-profit institute.  His new boss, Barack Obama, appointed him the director of the National Cancer Institute during the summer of 2010.  
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With a precious niece living on Long Island, her Oncologist at SK, this sickens me beyond words. She was back in the hospital today, more CT scans, an MRI and blood work to rule out the worst. The worst, I fear, is the system itself. More and more, evidence points to the conclusion, that cancer is big business. I dare not say more.
In 1992, I found myself in an elevator at 6am at Sloan-Kettering before my mothers first operation for the cancer that would take her life 8 months later. I was in shock and terrified. Two doctors got into the elevator and either did not notice me or did not care. Here's what they were talking about, "Yeah, I'm heading for outpatient care." "Oh yeah," said the other one, "That's where the big money really is. You can make a killing."

SK was the worst hospital experience, the doctors had absolutely no compassion and treated my mother like she had a psychiatric condition because she cried when they told her she was going to die without so much as a thought if she were accompanied by anyone.

So this does not surprise me one bit, unfortunately.
The President of the United States of America earns $400,000 a year. Any "non-profit" organization that pays its CEO more than that should immediately lose its non-profit status.

Thanks for posting this.
This is a clear indication of the disconnect between the über rich and the rest of us. From what I read about Harold Varmus, he seems to be a likable sort, fellow avid cyclist, and someone I would enjoy meeting. My guess is that he surrounds himself with fellow members of the über rich club and has developed the knack of plausible deniability with regard to being aware of the actual living conditions of most Americans.

As long as the rest of us are willing to be silent about this, it will continue. What needs to happen is for more people to write articles like this one and expose the huge disparities that exist in our society. Not just in non-profits, not just in medicine, but throughout our society.

We need to stop accepting the notion that "we can't afford" certain things, like affordable health care, good education, safe roads, and secure neighborhoods. If we can afford to pay one man several million dollars per year for his labor, we can afford almost anything. It's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of priorities.
Thank you all for your supporting comments. I wish there was more I could do.
One more comment?
These are days of CEO's.
They are old hucksters.
They sell snake venom.
It's CEO of BOAR pigs!

on vacation
circus contortionist
Read Con C. do yoga
no forget to discerns
crooks no breath air

bankers smell sticky
bakers smell sweetly
behave before gasp

no forget to exhale
breath to feet soles
wear a pink tuxedos

Thanks good doctor
at thesis editor burp
chairman of bored

Thanks doc. no be quack.
Quacks are dan miserable
they sell soul for crackers
Once again, you're our watchdog and our educator - thank you Dr. Levine!
If the CEO of British Patroleum sent out school kids to sell raffles would the country react? I see no difference here. If these businessmen wish to make millions then they should work for a business or the hospital should lose their non-profit status. You can't have it both ways. We are all paying for this since we pay the taxes that these institutions do not. It's a sin and a disgrace.
If the CEO of British Petroleum sent out school kids to sell raffles would the country react? I see no difference here. If these businessmen wish to make millions then they should work for a business or the hospital should lose their non-profit status. You can't have it both ways. We are all paying for this since we pay the taxes that these institutions do not. It's a sin and a disgrace.
What Patrick said. You really want to know, no one works hard enough to deserve a salary anywhere near a million bucks. The day isn't long enough, the work not hard enough. Anyone who says "I'm worth a million bucks" should be ashamed, especially if they're in the health care field. And if they actually believe that, let them prove it.
Sloan-Kettering is a non-profit which means that Sloan-Kettering receives certain tax discounts from our government. We hear politicians wanting to cut entitlements to the elderly, the infirm and the poor in order to bring our nations budget in line, but what about the entitlements of the wealthy? Clearly, the non-profits like Sloan-Kettering and my local Blue Cross Blue Shield that paid its CEO $3.5 Million in salary feel "entitled" to tax discounts because they are allegedly operating on a "compassionate" and bare bones budget in order to direct more of their efforts to helping others. We, the people, grant them this entitlement of a tax credit. This is a trade we make for individuals and organizations. Help others and we will help you. It would seem to me that if an organization can afford multi-million dollar salaries for its employees, it is not longer entitled to a tax discount.
I cannot agree more with every post here. If some CEO wishes to make several million a year then he should try to find a position at a for-profit company. I once again wish to ask all of you to not give donations to non-profits that abuse their status and award their administrators with outrageous salaries. Perhaps that will create some impetus for them to stop.
This is really a sad commentary. However, private medical hospitals are still private corporations at heart.
Very informative, and definitely outrageous!
Bellwether Vance Rated you and we gently bumped on the Left activity Feed.

Sometimes a 'bump' feels like a billion 'smackers' but I am not gonna stay here today.
I'll go visit Amish.
It was pre-planned.
A bump was accident.
Accidents are accidents.
Let's no limp in the rain.
Look for goo-slugs today.
Appalling. Thanks for writing this.~r
I'll ask a question that you don't have to answer Joan. How much should a CEO be making: $125k, 500k, or 25K? I don't know what the answer is, but a link to this blog ought to be sent to PublicAffairs@mskcc.org and ask them to answer it.
I believe that people should earn what the market will pay them but in this case, as with all non-profits, there is an exception. Again, Mr Varmus ,and the thousands like him. should consider working for a for-profit company.
This is pretty shocking, Evan. You don't have to be good at math to figure out why our healthcare system is so expensive.
Many of us want to believe in a market system where we all earn what we are worth, assuming that market to be transparent and fair - and that's the rub. In this case, Sloan Kettering is able to pay the massive wage to a certain few because they save money elsewhere, namely in tax credits and other loopholes that (we can assume) were not put there to boost the salaries of the few - but that has been the consequence.

The remedy is not easy but what we are doing here is a start to adding transparency to the system and with that comes fairness, ultimately. One can hope that after being made aware of the sacrifices of others to support his tax credit and the efforts of school children begging for funds to support his multi-million dollar salary, men like Harold Varmus and the boards that approve these salaries will do the right thing and return fairness to the market.
Non-profit status doesn't mean that someone doesn't profit from that enterprise, and some profit handsomely, as you have pointed out with this post. Non-profit status is all too often simply a tax dodge, just as designation as a religious organization is used to avoid taxes -- ask Joel Osteen.

But let's not limit our outrage to non-profits. Harold Varmus is a mere peasant compared to Stephen Hemsley, CEO of United HealthGroup, who received (I refuse to say earned) $101,959,866 in total compensation in 2009.

Everyone talks about cutting healthcare costs. Fine. Let's start by dumpling vulture-capitalist ghouls like Hemsley and the soulless corporations they head. The VA and Medicare , both examples of socialized medicine, have proven they can operate more efficiently than insurance companies by a factor of 10 to 1. Let's just adopt the Canadian system and be done with it.
Thank you for this post, Dr. Levine. How galling and shameless of Sloan-Kettering executives. What is it with these nonprofits that claim they are either not making money, or losing money every year, and yet the top executives are making millions? This is also a practice of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. How they get away with calling themselves "nonprofit" is beyond me.
Thank you for this post, Dr. Levine. How galling and shameless of Sloan-Kettering executives. What is it with these nonprofits that claim they are either not making money, or losing money every year, and yet the top executives are making millions? This is also a practice of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. How they get away with calling themselves "nonprofit" is beyond me.
Dr. Varmus works for a much larger non-profit now. He was appointed by Barack Obama to run the National Cancer Institute. So much for that change we were all promised.