I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Top officials at Blue Cross Blue Shield’s parent company had big pay day
In 2008, the same year that Raymond McCaskey earned $10.6 million as former CEO of Health Care Services Corp. (HCSC) – roughly $9 million of it in bonus pay — a former executive vice president for the company took home $15 million.
But last year, the former CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico’s Illinois-based parent company equaled his former colleague. He pocketed $15 million, all of it in bonus pay, filings with the Illinois Department of Insurance show.
In fact, many top officials made out pretty well last year at HCSC, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield divisions in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois and Oklahoma.
McCaskey’s successor as CEO, Patricia Hemingway Hall, earned $8.7 million in 2009, $7.5 million of it as a bonus – a substantial pay raise over her 2008 compensation of $5.4 million.
The presidents of the Illinois and Texas divisions, meanwhile, saw their compensation packages rise by two-thirds and 150 percent, respectively, from 2008 to 2009, mostly driven by the size of their bonuses, Illinois state records show.
It’s unclear how much the top official at Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico earned last year. That person’s compensation package wasn’t listed in the Illinois filings and a call to BCBS New Mexico seeking that official’s 2008 and 2009 compensation packages was not returned Friday.
The size of HCSC’s compensation packages for its top officials stands in sharp relief against the increased monthly premiums 40,000 New Mexicans will pay after the state reached a settlement with BCBS of New Mexico.
And it left some asking questions.
“I don’t want to take these folks’ salaries, but gee, I wonder how many primary doctors could be bought with that salary for New Mexico?” Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, said Friday after being informed of the salaries for the company’s top officials.
“The public is outraged when it (high salaries) comes to Wall Street,” Feldman said. “I don’t think it has quite registered that it is happening in the insurance sector.”
The state reached a settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield last week that allows the firm to raise premium rates by an average of 21 percent on the 40,000 New Mexicans affected. Part of the reasoning came from BCBS’ contention that it had lost $20 million on the plans offered to the affected population, and $11.1 million on all of its operations in 2009.
The state’s former Insurance Superintendent, Morris Chavez, also told the Public Regulation Commission at the time that the agreement came out of a fear that Blue Cross Blue Shield might pull out of providing health insurance in rural areas around New Mexico. Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico insures up to 70 percent of rural New Mexicans who buy their own insurance, according to Chavez.
But the Insurance Division’s General Counsel told a panel made up of lawmakers and state officials this week that the agency’s authority under state law doesn’t extend to considering certain factors, including executive pay or a company’s surplus.
HCSC has a $6.7 billion surplus, according to an attorney for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, who has followed the case closely.