Centene CEO Michael Neidorff was the highest-paid chief executive among big national insurers in 2020, edging out 2019's biggest earner, CVS Health's Larry Merlo.
Neidorff earned nearly $25 million in total compensation, and brought in the highest base salary among the six CEOs we analyzed, earning $1.8 million. The data comes from the insurers' annual proxy filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Centene's chief also earned $14.9 million in stock awards and $2.9 million in option awards, according to the filing.
The median employee salary at Centene in 2020 was $68,987, for a CEO pay ratio of 362:1 at the company, according to the filing.
Merlo topped our compensation list in 2019 but fell to second place in 2020, earning $23 million in total compensation. That includes a $1.6 million salary and $4.1 million in option awards.
Merlo did not earn any compensation through stock awards last year but was the only insurer we analyzed to see a boost through his change in pension or nonqualified compensation earnings, bringing in $11.9 million.
The longtime chief executive at CVS retired on Feb. 1 of this year, with Aetna president Karen Lynch stepping into the CEO role as his successor.
The median salary for employees at the healthcare giant was $55,716 last year, for a ratio of 414:1 with Merlo, according to the proxy.
The remaining CEOs we analyzed were clustered more closely together in total compensation, according to the filings. Cigna CEO David Cordani earned $19.9 million, including a $1.5 million salary and $11.1 million in stock awards.
He also earned $3.5 million in option awards. The CEO pay ratio at Cigna was 304.17:1 in 2020, with a median employee salary of $65,520.
UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann brought in $17.9 million in total compensation for 2020, according to the filings. His base salary was $1.4 million and he also earned $9.6 million in stock awards and $3.2 million in option awards.
Wichmann also retired this year, stepping down from the CEO role in February. Optum CEO Andrew Witty took over as chief executive of UHG.
The median employee salary at UnitedHealth Group was $55,656 last year, for a pay ratio of 321:1.
Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux was close behind Wichmann on our list, earning $17.1 million in total compensation. She earned a $1.4 million salary last year, as well as $9 million in stock awards and nearly $3 million in option awards.
The CEO pay ratio was 278:1 to one, with a median Anthem employee salary of $61,544.
Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana, comes in at sixth place on our list, bringing in $16.5 million in total compensation last year. That includes a $1.3 million salary as well as $8.5 million in stock awards and $2.8 million in option awards.
The median employee salary at Humana in 2020 was $62,872 for a 262:1 pay ratio.