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Published: Saturday, 6/9/2007

Those health-care salaries

HOW much the so-called nonprofit health-care systems are paying their top executives amounts to old news because it usually comes two years after the fact, from filings with the Internal Revenue Service.

Even so, the revelation that Alan Brass, chief executive of ProMedica Health System, received $4.1 million in compensation in 2005 undoubtedly raised a number of eyebrows among northwest Ohioans struggling to cope with the seemingly infinite escalation in medical costs.

One possible reaction:

"So that's why my bill from Toledo Hospital was so high."

Another:

"If they paid him that much two years ago, he must be making a lot more today."

Or maybe:

"No wonder they're called 'nonprofits.'•"

ProMedica confirmed a Web report on Mr. Brass' 2005 salary but explained that nearly $2.6 million was from "deferred compensation" owed from previous years.

We doubt the fact that his regular annual salary was "only" in the neighborhood of $1.5 million did much to calm this concern.

It's the same lofty neighborhood as Steve Mickus, president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners, who reportedly received $1.6 million in total compensation, up 16 percent from 2004.

News value aside, health-care salaries get - and deserve - a lot of attention because medical and hospital costs have become a central issue and concern facing the American public.

Nonprofit organizations like ProMedica and Mercy typically refuse to reveal executives' salaries because they know the public gets irritated every time the information gets out, even if it comes two years late.

A more enlightened policy would be simply to publish salary data, which would ward off speculation about waste and help forestall a building impression that outsized executive paychecks are being folded undeservedly into health-care costs that have become too much for the nation to bear.



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