• Carmen Milligan

Caps on pay? Not exactly, but close enough.

I would think that nurses in general do not make huge political campaign contributions, so when the fat cats in CEO corner offices start feeling the pinch of someone demanding to be paid what they are actually worth, well, they want to put a stop to it. And politicians are falling right in line with them, as opposed to doing what is right for their constituents. But let's get to the facts.

The whole thing started with two letters (one from the American Hospital Association and one from a bipartisan group in Congress). Both cite healthcare staffing agencies as the problem, with some demanding up to 30% of contracts as fees. A line from the Congressional letter: "We have received reports that the nurse staffing agencies are vastly inflating price, by two, three or more times pre-pandemic rates, and then taking 40% or more of the amount being charged to the hospitals for themselves in profits."

Now, just one second. Isn't that the backbone of the American way? Charge as much as the market will stand so you can make the most profit? Since when is congress concerned with passing savings or profit to the actual workers? Hospitals are making more money than ever because of the pandemic, and it seems that when other businesses start to ask for a piece of that pie, CEOs are balking. Want to get really pissed? Here are the top three public health system CEO salaries:

  1. HCA Healthcare (Nashville, Tenn.) CEO: Samuel Hazen Pay: $30,397,771 Pay ratio: 556:1

  2. Tenet Healthcare (Dallas) CEO: Ronald Rittenmayer Pay: $16,675,529 Pay ratio: 306:1

  3. Universal Health Services (King of Prussia, Pa.) CEO: Alan Miller Pay: $13,246,214 Pay ratio: 305:1

And let's talk about healthcare price gouging, shall we? Where charges vary all over the country for the same items, procedures, tests, etc. Where the cost of a bandage is $1, but a patient is charged $15. Isn't that gouging?

Now that nurses have an advocate for demanding more money, because it sure as hell has NEVER been the AHA, the AHA is all aflutter. Why is there a nursing shortage? Because they are being bloodied, battered, and bruised by the work, hours, and low pay during one of the most dangerous times in our lifetime to be a healthcare provider. You know what, AHA? Pay your nurses what they are worth. Stop raising limits on patient-nurse ratios. Stop working them more than 40 hours a week. Stop shifts that are more than 12 hours in duration. This is just common freaking sense, and for the first time, nurses are fighting back and feeling their worth.

Will the CEOs make less and pay nurses more? Hell, no. This is America. There is no trickle down, unless it's cost. The cost always trickles down to the consumer. The rich get richer, but, in this case, I hope the nurses do, too.

Congress, if you want to do something worthwhile, put some national guidelines in place that will protect nurses from being bled dry while the AHA advocates for CEOs. If you want to address price gouging, find out why I am paying $80 a month for internet access. If you want to address monopoly, look at how having a single healthcare system in an area affects choice, costs, and care of patients. There are other things for you to do, but you'll have to get your nose out of the ass of political campaign donations to do it.

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