State Oba­macare chief gets bonus on top of 2 raises

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Chad Ter­hune chad.ter­hune@latimes.com

Cal­i­for­nia’s health in­sur­ance ex­change has awarded its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor a $65,000 bonus four months af­ter giv­ing him a 24% raise.

Start­ing July 1, Peter Lee will have a base salary of $333,120 as head of Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia. The ex­change’s board granted him a 24% raise in Fe­bru­ary and it gave Lee an ad­di­tional 2.5% in­crease Thurs­day.

Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia’s board chair­woman, Diana Doo­ley, said Lee de­served the ad­di­tional com­pen­sa­tion for his work build­ing the state-run mar­ket­place and his con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to serv­ing con­sumers statewide.

“We are deeply ap­pre­cia­tive of Peter’s lead­er­ship and we are very happy to rec­og­nize his work,” Doo­ley said.

The Oba­macare ex­change didn’t an­nounce the Feb. 1 raise at the time. A spokes­woman said it was posted on the ex­change web­site May 21 along with salary in­for­ma­tion for 14 other top man­agers who all earn more than $100,000 an­nu­ally.

Lee’s $65,000 bonus sur­passes the $53,000 bonus the ex­change board granted him last year.

Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia’s board also gave a 13% raise to Lee’s top deputy. Yolanda Richard­son, the ex­change’s chief deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, will make $265,668 start­ing July 1.

The ex­change doesn’t draw on the state’s gen­eral funds. Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia’s pri­mary source of rev­enue is a $13.95 monthly fee tacked onto ev­ery in­di­vid­ual pol­icy sold.

Con­sumer ad­vo­cates have cred­ited Lee with se­cur­ing lower-than-ex­pected rates from health in­sur­ers the last two years and reach­ing sub­stan­tial en­roll­ment of nearly 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple un­der the fed­eral Af­ford­able Care Act.

Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia has had its share of op­er­a­tional prob­lems, such as an er­ror­filled provider di­rec­tory, long call-cen­ter wait times and on­go­ing trou­bles for pol­i­cy­hold­ers who are trans­ferred to Medi-Cal.

Some observers have also faulted Lee and Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia for slower growth in year two of open en­roll­ment.

Cal­i­for­nia In­sur­ance Com­mis­sioner Dave Jones has re­peat­edly crit­i­cized Lee for a lack of health plan choices in some mar­kets. Health in­sur­ers and their 2016 rates will be an­nounced by Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia next month.

At Thurs­day’s board meet­ing, Lee cited the ex­change’s suc­cess­ful out­reach to Lati­nos, its sound fi­nan­cial foot­ing and stan­dard­ized ben­e­fits that make it eas­ier for con­sumers to com­pare health plans.

“This is a la­bor of love for many of us ... to change healthcare in Cal­i­for­nia and to serve as a model for the na­tion,” Lee said. “Cal­i­for­nia can and should feel proud of what we have done to date.”

Other state ex­changes and their lead­ers haven’t fared so well. Of­fi­cials in Ore­gon, Min­nesota and Mary­land all re­signed as trou­bles mounted dur­ing the health-law roll­out. This month, Hawaii’s ex­change be­gan to shut down and shift en­rollees to the fed­eral Healthcare.gov mar­ket­place.

Bob Cham­ber­lin L.A.Times

PETER LEE is the head of Cal­i­for­nia’s health in­sur­ance ex­change.

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