The chief executive of the biggest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S. earned $38.6 million last year, leading the health-care salary race in the annual New York Times pay survey.

Richard Bracken, the CEO of HCA, the hospital chain, leads an enterprise whose profits dropped 34.89 percent, according to the article. HCA was the subject of a pair of New York Times articles in August 2012 (here’s one) about profits and practices that doctors said were designed to increase profitability, which, The Times wrote, “sometimes led to conflicts with doctors and nurses over concerns about patient care.”

In second place among health companies is Leonard Schleifer of Regneron Pharmaceuticals, who’s the top drug company exec with a 2012 pay package of $30 million.

Next is Kent Thiry, CEO of DaVita HealthCare Partners, which supplies kidney dialysis and also owns the nation’s  largest operator of medical groups and physician networks, in California, Nevada and Florida.

Why does this matter? Well, people who are getting care from an HCA hospital are subsidizing this CEO salary. People getting kidney dialysis are subsidizing the salary. People using Regneron’s drugs are subsidizing the salary. Also, people who pay taxes — which provide support for Medicare, Medicaid, public schoolteachers’ health insurance, and so on — are subsidizing these salaries. As The Times wrote: “Among the secrets to HCA’s success: It figured out how to get more revenue from private insurance companies, patients and Medicare by billing much more aggressively for its services than ever before …”

The full New York Times article is here, and you can click on the chart above for just the health-care salaries in table form.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...