Health

Healthcare Execs Cashed In For Billions Thanks To COVID

(Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Three hundred American healthcare CEOs made more than $4.5 billion in 2021, driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis by STAT news.

More than 100 CEOs took home at least $10 million, STAT found by examining financial disclosures, at a time when healthcare costs were bankrupting regular Americans and frontline workers were fighting a global pandemic. Much of the compensation wasn’t in the form of salary, but stock options that vested while market prices bubbled to historic levels, according to STAT.

The highest paid healthcare CEO in 2021 was Leonard Schleifer of Regeneron, who made a staggering $453 million. Regeneron saw a boon from its experimental monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, which was widely deployed in the U.S. to stem symptoms from coronavirus infections in patients. It was even administered to former President Donald Trump when he battled the virus in October 2020.

Schleifer wasn’t the only CEO who made out like a bandit after their company saw new sales due to the pandemic. Hologic, Inc. CEO Steve MacMillan made $68.5 million in 2021 after winning a nine-figure contract to conduct COVID-19 testing for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), among other deals.

Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier made $44.95 million in 2021. In June of that year, his company reached an agreement to supply the U.S. government with $1.2 billion worth of Molnupiravir, its COVID-19 antiviral treatment, upon its approval by federal regulators. Eli Lilly has similarly spent millions on the development of monoclonal antibody treatments, and is being rewarded handsomely with government contracts. CEO David Ricks made $49.7 million in 2021.

IQVIA CEO Ari Bousbib pocketed $59.2 million for his work in 2021, which included a U.K. government contract for tracking COVID-19 infections. (RELATED: Merck’s New COVID-19 Pill Could Accidentally Trigger A New Variant, Experts Warn)

Some companies profited from the pandemic via more nefarious means. One Medical, a San Francisco-based primary healthcare provider, was accused of giving COVID-19 vaccines to ineligible patients and then pushing paid memberships to people looking for vaccines. It also allegedly offered fast tracks to vaccine access for insiders at the company. CEO Amir Dan Rubin made $45 million last year.

Healthcare workers weren’t so fortunate. Average household income in the U.S. is just shy of $70,000 per year, and although it’s higher among healthcare workers, it’s still dwarfed by CEO pay. For example, the median salary of Regeneron employees was about $150,000 per year, according to STAT. The median provider salary at a sampling of 27 healthcare companies examined by STAT was even worse, coming in at around $45,000 annually.