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Romoff worth every cent to UPMC

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

He's far too modest to complain.

But it's easy to argue that UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff is due a substantial raise. He made a paltry $6.6 million in 2012, according to tax returns the health system released on Friday for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Based on where he's taken UPMC since then, an annual salary of less than $10 million for Romoff seems borderline criminal. Or at least it would be, if state lawmakers would only enact an Equitable Compensation for Supreme Rulers of Monolithic Medical Conglomerates Act.

To say that Romoff earned every penny in 2012 is an understatement. UPMC made $348 million from operations on total revenue of $9.6 billion in 2012. Its net income was $221 million.

But there's more to a nonprofit than its profits. Since 2012, Romoff has presided over a brand-conscious outfit that consistently comes up with innovative ways to positively keep itself in the public eye.

I'm not just referring to the near-daily headlines UPMC draws from its expensive war on multiple fronts against Highmark, the state's largest insurer and owner of the rival Allegheny Health Network. A battle that ultimately could cost thousands of people access to UPMC physicians and facilities.

I'm referring to the following:

• In a court filing related to the city of Pittsburgh's challenge of its tax-exempt status, UPMC incredibly claimed that it has no employees. That news came as a surprise to the 60,000 people who draw a paycheck from the corporation. Amazingly, most of these non-employees continue to show up at UPMC facilities daily and perform tasks that most people would accurately describe as work.

• UPMC is a defendant in a lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 27,000 people the health system contends don't work for it.

Curiously, these folks had a myriad of sensitive personnel data in UPMC computers that was accessed by hackers in a Target-worthy security breach. UPMC initially said only about 20 of its non-workers were affected; it since has acknowledged that nearly 800 were the victims of tax fraud.

• In March, Downtown motorists were surprised to find streets near UPMC's Grant Street headquarters blocked during rush hour by hundreds of people that UPMC continues to assert don't work for it.

The protest over wages UPMC pays, which attracted activists from other states, occurred over two days and ended only after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto met with Romoff to discuss the non-workers' concerns.

The perpetually bashful Romoff didn't address the demonstrators, preferring to let Friday's tax filings do the talking for him. Here's what they said: In 2012, UPMC paid 30 people more than $1 million, up from 21 in 2011. That's not exactly a miserly amount to pay people not to work for you.

Romoff seldom gets the credit he deserves. He's always been reticent to toot his own horn, and there's a price to pay for that.

But even without another raise, Romoff certainly can afford it.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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