Super chef Emeril Lagasse cooks up $7.2 million annually. Tom
Cruise made a reported $65 million on Mission Impossible 2.
And Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers tops Major League
Baseball's salary roster at a nifty $22 million.
So how does pay for the CEO of a home medical equipment business
stack up? That average annual bank deposit is a tad more modest at
$82,416. In fact, the highest single income reported in our 2003
Salary Survey, HomeCare's eighth annual provider
compensation study, was $250,000.
Though salaries among HME workers may be slightly below that of
movie stars and baseball's best, they are steady. That counts as
good in an employment economy where layoffs are a matter of course
and existing salaries are being cut. In fact, the average salary
across 15 HME job titles for the respondents participating in our
survey is a healthy $50,038.
That puts these HME wage earners ahead of teachers, whose
average salary was $44,400 last year; marine biologists, who,
despite the dangers of the deep, take home $35,000; new commercial
pilots, who, in a profession where pay is based on seniority, begin
at $28,000; and news anchors, who, with the majority of the jobs
located in small markets, average $47,000 per year.
Even though the country can't seem to shake off its financial
slump, more than 80 percent of HME companies gave their employees
raises in the 12 months preceding our survey. At an average 6.4
percent, most of those increases are well over the 3.6 percent
reported by Mercer Human Resource Consulting as the standard raise
that 1,700 U.S. employers will give this year.
Despite its association with the larger health care industry,
which remains somewhat recession-proof, the HME salary outlook may
not always be as solid. In last month's HomeCare Web poll,
52 percent of the respondents said they would freeze employees' pay
if Congress enacts a CPI freeze on DME reimbursement (under
consideration as part of Medicare reform). Another 18 percent said
they might take such a measure.
But for now, though you're not taking home a celebrity's
paycheck, you could be making more than those who work among the
stars — literally. According to salary.com, entry-level
rocket scientists start out at $40,000 a year.
On a more serious note: While it's true that HME providers may
never get rich, most will tell you the rewards of their jobs are
worth more than money. And, of course, what's the value of their
service to the customers in their care? Priceless.