Keeping the Big Boss Healthy -- at a Cost
Maybe it's because I've never been an "executive" myself, but there's something rankling about these executive health centers that have been popping up in the D.C. area and across the country in the past 20 years or so.
The rationale for these centers is that busy executives purportedly need access to convenient and comprehensive preventive and diagnostic health care in a setting that befits their professional status and on a schedule that interferes as little as possible with their work.
Most executive health centers offer a full day's assortment of screenings plus physical examinations by a team of doctors. Typically they accommodate only a handful of patients per day and charge $2,000 or more. Many end the day with a soothing massage or other spa treatment. As you can imagine, insurance often doesn't cover the cost.
A publicist's note announcing the Feb. 2 opening of The Penn Center for Executive Health, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, observes that an executive's health can have a "ripple effect that impacts the bottom line." We've certainly seen that in the case of Steve Jobs's mysterious hormonal imbalance, which has plagued the pancreatic-cancer-survivor and Apple CEO recently. In light of Jobs's apparent ill health -- and suspicions that the whole truth is not being told -- investors have been unnerved, and the company's stock rises and falls with each new Jobs-health update. So, yes, a business leader's health troubles can have far-reaching ramifications.
I believe in capitalism and the free market, and I suppose that people who have $2,000 to spend on a single day's health care should be able to avail themselves thereof. And I'm not trying to pick on the Penn Center -- which is open to non-executives (if they can afford it) and doesn't offer spa treatments. They're just the ones who happened to send me a press release. In response to my questions, the folks there told me that the new Center is actually an extension of services that they've offered at another site for 9 years; the expansion is due to high demand.
Here's what Marilyn Howarth, medical director of the Penn Center for Executive Health, has to say:
Although the conditions of the current economy seem counterintuitive as the time to expand this program, The PENN Center for Executive Health is needed now, especially in this economy, because the mounting pressures executives face to keep companies afloat are causing many to become more likely to neglect their own health. ... The added cost that executives choose to incur pays for the convenience of having appropriate medical services arranged for them; the Center is open to anyone who wants to take advantage of the program. The revenue realized from this program is used to fund other programs, including those that serve patients who cannot afford medical care.
That last part is nice. Still, I think it takes quite a tin ear to be promoting such services at a time when many American families would treasure that $2,000 and stretch it to cover many months' medical care.
The image of some CEO checking in to an executive health center for state-of-the-art-screenings (and sometimes spa treatments) reminds me of those Detroit auto executives' taking their private jets to Washington to beg for bailout money. Sure, they were free to do so, and it might have made some sense in many ways. But after a sound bashing in the Senate and the media, the car guys made sure to drive to Washington for their next begging session.
Maybe the health centers should take a hint. I don't begrudge anyone access to the best health care they can possibly afford. But when that care is so superior to what's available to the rest of us, and when it includes an element of pampering that's foreign to most, the whole thing just seems elitist. Highlighting the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots can only further polarize the already ugly -- and sure to grow uglier -- debate over health care in America.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
January 28, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: General Health
Save & Share: Previous: Still Buying Organic, Despite the Price?
Next: Perspective: Mercury in High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Posted by: TED3MSC | January 28, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JCharles1 | January 28, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MDRoadRunner | January 28, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mgway1 | January 28, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: squarf | January 28, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Betsy2009 | January 28, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: GWGOLDB | January 28, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: george11 | January 28, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JayL1 | January 28, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.