From 2009, to 2010, United Healthcare cut in half the compensation of its Chief Operating Officer, Stephen J. Hemsley. At first blush, it would appear United Healthcare is recognizing the ballooning costs to consumers of healthcare, and it acting responsibly. First looks can be deceiving. See

In 2009, Hemsley received $102 million in total compensation from United Healthcare. In 2010, his pay was cut in half, but even after a 50% reduction, he still received an exorbitant $48.8 million dollars in compensation. The majority of this pay was in the form of stocks and stock options ($ 44 million), in addition to the $4.8 million in he was paid in salary, incentive pay, and other compensation. Putting his compensation into perspective, his 2010 compensation is equal to the sum total of the average annual household income of 2,000 American households. It would also be enough to pay a $500 monthly health insurance premium for 8,500 families. See

How can United Healthcare justify its continued premium increases, based on rising healthcare costs, while at the same time paying its Chief Executive $48,800,000? Shouldn’t the Board of Directors of United Healthcare be more concerned with its policyholders’ ability to access and receive quality care rather than compensating its officers in such an outrageous manner?
Andrew Goldstein of corporate compensation adviser Towers Watson says, “We all kind of scratch our heads when executives are making millions, and (corporate) directors feel obligated to give them $10,000 for financial planning, It’s not like directors haven’t thought about getting rid of perks. They’re still a sticking point for a lot of executives. They feel it’s part of their compensation package. And it’s a stature thing.” So it seems that despite these tremendous salaries, CEO’s continue to cling to these perks at the health expense and financial burden of those less fortunate. Simply because directors feel obligated, and executives feel entitled. See

While families struggle to afford the soaring increases in insurance rates and battle the stresses of paying for prescriptions, doctor visits, and various health issues, United Healthcare remains “America’s largest commercial health insurer based upon revenue”, seemingly profiting from our medical woes. If it wasn’t so sad, and if so many Americans were not suffering from the consequences of being uninsured, classifying compensation of $49 million dollars as “pay cut,” would be comical. Perhaps the various departments of insurance, and our legislature, should look a lot more closely at insurance executive compensation when considering how to regulate insurance costs and fix our insurance crises.

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