“Do I enjoy being king? Yes, that’s fun,” said Richard Burke in 1987. He had spent over ten years running a health care nonprofit in Minneapolis called Physicians Health Plan (PHP), and also UnitedHealth, the for-profit company that was managing it. In 1986, the nonprofit paid him $267,823; the for-profit, $418,342, not including stock options. The average income for the highest-earning doctors at the time (orthopedic surgeons) was just 16 percent of that. But Burke’s salaries weren’t what caused doctors at PHP to rebel.
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