Acutely aware of the needs of hospital patients and staff skills

Posted: May 27, 2014

The day before Universal Health Services Inc. held its annual meeting Tuesday, members of the Service Employees International Union distributed leaflets outside Friends Hospital in Philadelphia and three other area behavioral health facilities run by UHS.

On Wednesday, four union members showed up at the annual meeting for the King of Prussia-based company, which employs 65,000 people in 25 acute-care hospitals and 195 behavioral health facilities around the nation.

They wanted company chairman Alan Miller, 76, to create a committee to oversee compliance with industry laws and to monitor patient safety.

"Nothing did happen," Miller wrote in an e-mail later.

"One man asked two questions, which I answered. I thanked them for their attendance," he wrote. "They thanked me. Before they left, one lady gave me a rubber band which said, 'We care.' She said, 'I know you care.' "

Question: So are you planning to set up a committee?

Answer: The board of directors has a well-functioning audit committee and, working in conjunction with an extensive quality department, determined that an additional oversight organization is not required.

Q: How will the Affordable Care Act impact your behavioral health business?

A: Three or four years ago, there was a parity law that basically said that mental health should be treated the same as acute care and it should be written into company insurance plans and health care. But the problem was that it did not cover every plan. The ACA fixed that and it states that every plan - individual plans, small business plans, large plans - has to have a mental health component that is equal to the coverage for acute care.

That was a meaningful milestone for the mental health business.

Q: Will the law hurt or help your acute-care hospitals?

A: Help. There are 31 million who will be covered with insurance [who] don't have insurance. [Now] if someone presents themselves, we have to take care of them. We put them back together again and they say, 'I'm sorry, we don't have insurance.' That's bad debt.

Q: Most of your hospitals are in Nevada, California, Florida, and Texas. How do you pick locations?

A: We don't want to be everywhere. We want to have a meaningful hospital - number one or two, nothing less - in a fast-growing market.

Q: So not around here?

A: We have no interest in being in downtown Philly.

Q: Did you want to be a doctor?

A: No. I'm not a clinician. I hire the best people I can find - people who know taxation to mental health to construction, to accounting. I'm a generalist and I recognize my shortcomings.

Q: You are chairman and CEO. Your son, Mark, 43, was named president. Do you plan to retire?

A: Never.

Q: George Washington is the subject of the first chapter of a book you are writing on lessons learned from military leaders. What's his lesson?

A: Perseverance. George Washington wanted to quit many times. He couldn't win a battle, but he just kept rope-a-dope and ultimately that was the end of the Brits. If he had not stayed at it, that would have been the end of America.

Q: You chaired the Opera Company of Philadelphia's board from 1994 to 1998. Can you sing?

A: I don't care for my voice. I would prefer a deeper voice.


Title: Founder, chairman, chief executive, Universal Health Services Inc.

Home: Gladwyne.

Family: Wife, Jill; children, Mark, Marni, Abby.

Diplomas: College of William and Mary, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, master's in business administration.

Resumé: Started in advertising at Young & Rubicam. Wharton roommate got him into the hospital business. Later, in 1978, Miller founded UHS Inc.

Collections: Antique slot machines, autographs by historical figures.

Favorite song: "Nessun Dorma" from the opera Turandot.


Where: King of Prussia.

Business: Owns and operates 25 acute-care hospitals and 195 behavioral health centers nationwide.

Ticker: UHS.

2013 financials: $510.7 million profits on $7.3 billion in revenues, both up from 2012.

Employees: 65,000.

Local employment: 600 corporate, 4,400 in eight area behavioral health facilities.


Alan Miller: From Mad Man

to hospital magnate.

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.



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