Tag Archives: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Reporter digs into nonprofit hospital CEO pay

At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s M.B. Pell has assembled a look at CEO pay at local nonprofit hospitals. Pell hits hard at the top of the story, pointing out that top executives are pulling in ever-growing six- and seven-digit salaries in a time of cutbacks and job losses, and demonstrating that the state loses millions in tax revenue thanks to the hospitals’ exempt status.

It’s the sort of meaty accountability work that we expect to see on a tax filing-based story. Slightly more surprising? Pell endeavored to complete the picture with a healthy dose of perspective, reminding readers that in urban areas like Atlanta, even nonprofit hospitals are often complicated billion-dollar conglomerates. In Georgia, Pell writes, “hospitals report to 27 state and federal agencies and engage in multimillion-dollar building projects. The larger hospital systems have billions in revenue and are among the largest employers in their communities. Many also operate for-profit subsidiaries.” Those “billions” provide valuable context when discussing a $600,000 pay package.

Hospital executives and industry experts consider the examination of salaries a titillating issue for the public, but a subject lacking in substance.

Even if salaries were cut dramatically, the savings would not add significantly to hospitals’ charitable missions, Parker said.

Tax exempt hospitals in the metro area provided $932 million in charitable care in 2009, according to an analysis of financial survey data reported to the state by hospitals. The hospitals spent $61 million to pay officers, directors, trustees and key employees, tax forms show.

Of the uncompensated care, nearly a third, or $287.5 million, was provided by one hospital, Grady Memorial. Grady CEO Michael Young, who left the hospital in June, made $833,646 in 2009.

But for-profit hospitals in the Atlanta area pay taxes and they provided uncompensated care totaling $87 million in 2009, according to financial survey data.

For a counterpoint, Pell turned to a few outspoken patient advocates and a 2009 study conducted by University of Connecticut researchers. It’s another data point that demonstrates the depth of Pell’s research.

CEOs of nonprofit hospitals in Connecticut who increased the number of beds at their facilities by 10 percent typically got pay increases of just under 8 percent, shows a study of nonprofit hospitals by two professors at the University of Connecticut.

A 10 percent increase in the amount of charity care provided, however, typically resulted in a 1.5 percent decrease in the CEO’s pay, the study shows.

Pell’s story takes the national picture into account, but if you’re just looking to get up to speed on the national debate over nonprofit hospitals, charity care and tax exemption as it relates to executive pay, I recommend you scroll down to the final subhead: “Eyeing tax exemption.”

Young to report on health for USA Today

AHCJ member Alison Young has gone from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been writing an investigative column, to USA Today, Matt Dornic reports on MediaBistro.com. Young, who previously covered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will cover health on the paper’s national desk.

Young also is president of the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ board of directors.

CDC refuses to hand over 4,000 pages to paper

In January, 2007, AHCJ member and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Alison Young asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 4,000 pages of documents, all discussing the threats to the agency’s reputation posed by her work and that of her co-workers.


Photo by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

The CDC says it takes an average of 38 days to process Freedom of Information Act requests, yet the Atlanta paper has several requests still pending after a year or two. In a recent column, Young takes the tardy agency to task, citing President Obama’s request for openness.

In the AJC’s case, the CDC said it fears publishing the records “would interfere with the agency’s deliberative process and have a chilling effect on employee discussions.” The records are being withheld under an FOIA exemption for internal documents that are part of the agency’s deliberative process.

Report spurs Atlanta vaccination reform

ACHJ member and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Alison Young followed up her initial report on unvaccinated students in Atlanta schools with a story about the school districts’ resulting crackdown. Young also questioned some schools’ claims of 100 percent compliance, based on changes in the way schools counted students without required booster shots.

According to Young, the worst-offending school districts had taken significant measures to become compliant with local vaccination requirements. One district even kicked 105 students out of class on Jan. 30 for noncompliance.

A few area schools have not yet vaccinated all students, Young found. She said that a work group recently began meeting to assign roles and responsibilities for enforcing the law.

Young even discovered an internal Atlanta school district email urging vaccination compliance because of the possibility of follow-up stories in the media.

“The ‘perception in the state is that Fulton County and Atlanta have the worst immunization rates and are nonresponsive to blatant notification of violations or media scrutiny and the media is ready to write a follow-up story documenting this fact,’” a district official wrote.