The drug store giant’s CEO has been cutting corners while rewarding himself handsomely.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Sometimes I don’t know whether to weep uncontrollably, laugh hysterically, or just throw up.
I recently did all three when I saw another gusher of greed pouring out of corporate America. This one is especially nauseating, given today’s raging health crisis, for the culprits are major health care corporations.
One perpetrator is Larry Merlo, CEO of our country’s largest drugstore chain, CVS. In this time of COVID-19, customers are surging into the chain’s 10,000 stores for everything from medications to masks. Yet the boss has blithely left many of the pharmacies so severely understaffed that they pose a danger to public health.
CVS pharmacists tell of frantically scrambling to keep up with filling prescriptions, answering ever-ringing phone inquiries, giving shots and COVID tests, stocking toilet paper, tending the drive-through, etc. — while also having to meet ceaseless corporate demands for cost-cutting and more profit.
The result has been a dangerous work overload, with many pharmacists handling nearly 200 prescriptions in a six-hour shift, about one every two minutes.
Unsurprisingly, there’s been an alarming rise in serious errors and weeklong delays in providing critical medications for customers.
Adding to the exasperation of local managers, who are allowed no say in staffing, is the infuriating level of heedless greed at the top. The New York Times reports that while CEO Merlo has failed to fund the staff his pharmacies need, he has generously funded his own needs — he paid himself $36.5 million last year alone.
Then there is the mountain of interest payments and fees that CVS is paying to Wall Street bankers and lawyers who engineered Merlo’s monopolistic deal to take over the Aetna health insurance giant last year.
So, while you’re being underserved at a local CVS, just remember that Bossman Merlo and his merger mercenaries are making a killing. How comforting is that?
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. Distributed by OtherWords.org.