When CEO compensation meets real-world ramifications

Ok, so here’s a story for our time.  The country struggles under an amazingly complex and cut-throat health care crisis.  Health care companies pay more in marketing and lobbying than they do in the care of health…by a country mile. Medical organizations are beginning to cry foul on the sheer volume of unneccessary tests that have become a routine part of so-called health care.

Yesterday two stories hit the chattersphere, and I invite you to share these links or this post as broadly as possible.


Hammergren of McKesson Medical Supply

The first story was Forbes’ annual report on CEO pay.  At the top of the list, clocking in at $131 million dollars, base pay, was John Hammergren from McKesson–medical supply and equipment company

The second story concerned six medical organizations that have finally come out and said enough, already, with the unnecessary exams, pharmaceuticals and etc that they are habitually directed to prescribe for patients.

In the past few years, it’s become somewhat de rigor for big city doctors to buy their own MRI machines–just think of this.  It’s sort of like an ipod, the MRI machine is the delivery system of all kinds of products, from maintanence to reports and beyond.  To help pay for the MRIs, of course the doctors will use the MRIs…a LOT.  If you think I’m making this sort of thing up, you haven’t been paying attention.

We, as the end-users of a deeply deeply flawed health care system sometimes have no one else to blame but ourselves–we eat poorly, sit too long (sitting is now commonly considered the new smoking), but worst of all, we are naive when it comes to our own health care.  We do not want to see the forest here: health care is big BIG business and we are the target demographic writ large.

What to do.  If you eat poorly and don’t get a modicum of exercise, don’t kid yourself: anything your health provider might offer up will probably do more harm than good in the long run (I am referring here to people of average health…not those with chronic conditions).  You can’t fix poor habits with a pill or a test or a treatment. 

Another thing to do is to question authority.  Look at the list below–it’s a selection from 45 tests/procedures that medical organizations have targeted as wasteful and unnecessary.  May this be the beginning of a major push back on Big Pharma and its clout:

  • Repeat colonoscopies within 10 years of a first test
  • Early imaging for most back pain
  • Brain scans for patients who fainted but didn’t have seizures
  • Antibiotics for mild- to-moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days or worsen
  • Stress cardiac imaging or advanced non-invasive imaging in the initial evaluation of patients without cardiac symptoms unless high-risk markers are present
  • PAP smears on women younger than 21 or who have had a hysterectomy for a non-cancer disease
  • Advanced imaging or bone scans in patients with early-stage breast or low-grade prostate cancer
  • Bone scan screening for osteoporosis in women younger than 65 or men younger than 70 with no risk factors
  • Routine cancer screening on dialysis patients with limited life expectancies
  • Chemotherapy for sickest cancer patients

Look critically at your own relationship with your health care provider.  The tests above are just the tip of the iceberg.  IN the view of companies like McKesson, most health care providers have been reduced to the role of delivery channel, a piece in the massive supply chain to end user/payer.  And if you think you don’t pay because you have insurance…really.  Really?



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