Ten retired surgeons from NUMC are among 20 state pensioners who...

Ten retired surgeons from NUMC are among 20 state pensioners who worked on Long Island and are collecting in excess of $200,000 in annual benefits, according to a new report. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A total of 10 retired surgeons from Nassau University Medical Center, the county's financially struggling public hospital, are receiving annual pensions in excess of $200,000, according to new data released Monday by an Albany-based think tank.

And they're not alone.

Data from SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center for Public Policy's government transparency website, shows that of the state's 54 pensioners taking home more than $200,000 annually through the New York State and Local Retirement System, 20 worked on Long Island. Besides the surgeons, they include educators and law enforcement. All but four of the 20 Long Islanders on the list retired before 2023.

Public hospitals such as NUMC face the same fiscal and operational constraints of local governments and school districts, but without the ability to raise taxes to generate revenue, said Ken Girardin, research director of the fiscally conservative Empire Center.

“The pension system wasn't set up with senior medical professionals in mind,” Girardin said. “Simply put, we're talking about a system whose fundamentals haven't changed in 100 years.”

The new data includes the names and pension amounts for 467,419 retirees from state agencies, public authorities and local governments, along with nonteaching school district positions. The amounts, which are exempt from state income tax, show what retirees were eligible to collect during the plan’s 2023 fiscal year, which ended March 31.

In total, 15 of the top 54 pensioners retired from the Port Authority while 10, all surgeons, worked for NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs NUMC. The second and third highest pensioners in the state — Dr. Richard Batista, who takes in $339,874, and Dr. Paul Scott, with a pension of $328,919 — are both general surgeons who retired from NUMC.

Nassau's only public hospital system, which serves many of the region's most vulnerable residents, has struggled with persistent financial issues in recent years, including a nearly $180 million operating deficit in 2023, officials have said.

Newsday reported last year that dozens of physicians at NUMC earned more than six figures in additional pay from a long-running compensation plan that is now under review.

“The policies around the state pension system have little to do with the hospital but are the purview of the governor and state legislature,” NUMC said in a statement Monday.

The assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System are overseen by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose office declined to comment on the latest report.

In addition to the NUMC surgeons, 10 other Long Island retirees are taking home more than $200,000 in pension payments, including two retired law enforcement officers each in Nassau and Suffolk counties and one each in the villages of Lake Success, Lynbrook and Old Westbury, according to the report.

Stony Brook University's former senior vice president for administration and a professor in its department of microbiology and immunology also made the list, as did an official in the Patchogue-Medford School District.

Keith Brainard, research director for the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, a Kentucky-based nonprofit, said the high annual pensions are the product of a system, created by the State Legislature, to ensure that “if employees work long enough, they can generate a pension of this size.”

Only nine state pensioners were eligible for annual payments of more than $200,000 a decade ago, said Girardin, adding that he expects the list to grow significantly in the coming years, despite changes to state law, approved in 2009 and 2012, that capped at 15% the amount of overtime pay that can be use to boost a pension. 

The pension reforms won’t translate into significant savings for years — and potentially several decades — as workers hired before 2012 can continue to apply substantial overtime to inflate their final salaries, he said.

“If someone is doubling their pay through overtime in their final few years, they'll end up with a pension that's often bigger than their [base] salary,” Girardin said.

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