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Nonprofits' Executive Pay Should Be More Accessible

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 27, 2011


That investigation broadened and led to the finding that three California hospital district CEOs were among the highest paid public workers in that state. Both stories got a lot of play, and assuredly did not go unnoticed by just about every assignment editor at every news outlet in the nation. 

This is not to suggest that hospital executives aren't worth the compensation they're getting. Some probably aren't, but most are, and more than a few are probably underpaid. But it's hard to say either way when we don't have the information readily at hand. If you're a six-figure CEO, and you feel that you earn your keep, why not explain it to the public you serve? If you're uncomfortable justifying your compensation, maybe it can't be justified.

The fact is, when the compensation is put in its proper context, a few curmudgeons will still howl and write letters to the editor. They always do. But most people will understand a reasoned and honest explanation. Health systems and hospitals are huge, complicated, labor- and capital-intensive operations that require not only highly skilled professional oversight for complex day-to-day operations, but visionary thinking for strategic planning.

Bottom line: It's a question of trust. It's a hard sell if you want the community, and taxpayers at large who subsidize non-profit healthcare through tax breaks, to buy into your healing mission when you're not willing to say up front what the people at the top are paid.

 


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.