A new analysis shows the largest private healthcare conglomerate, HCA, owned by the billionaire Frist family, made nearly $4 billion in profits in 2020 during the pandemic, but continued to slash expenditures, pay workers inadequate wages and fight efforts to unionize.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to widen the yawning chasm between the super-rich and everyone else in the U.S., a new analysis published Monday by the Institute for Policy Studies reveals Tennessee’s billionaire Frist family — the leading shareholders in the nation’s largest private healthcare conglomerate — has seen its combined wealth more than double since last March.
The IPS policy brief, Frist Family Pandemic Fortunes, shows the family of Thomas F. Frist Jr. — who in 1968 founded Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA) along with his father Thomas F. Frist Sr. and Jack C. Massey — has seen its combined personal fortune soar from $7.5 billion on March 18, 2020 to $15.6 billion on March 8, 2021, an increase of 108%.
According to IPS, the Frists have accumulated more wealth during the pandemic than any of the nation’s 27 healthcare sector billionaires, who include Big Pharma and biotech owners and shareholders. Among the report’s key findings:
- HCA made nearly $4 billion in profits in 2020 during the pandemic, up more than $200 million from 2019.
- In 2019, HCA’s staffing levels were 29% below the national average. HCA’s low staffing levels have been linked to poor patient outcomes. For example, low staffing levels at HCA’s Colorado hospitals may have contributed to patient death as well as other preventable harm.
- HCA CEO Sam Hazen was paid $27 million in 2019, making him the highest-paid CEO in the hospital sector for that year (2020 figures have not yet been released).
- Hazen’s pay is 478 times the median HCA employee, up from 383 times in 2018, and is over 1,038 times the lowest-paid worker at HCA. Hazen is paid roughly $13,000 an hour.
The report notes that even as HCA raked in windfall profits during the pandemic, it continued to pay workers inadequate wages while fighting efforts to unionize and dangerously reducing operating costs. HCA slashed supply expenditures by $112 million “even though workers spoke out for months about inadequate PPE [personal protective equipment] and having to reuse single-use equipment like masks and gloves.”
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