What the CEOs of the 8 largest insurers earned in 2018

Businessman putting cash in suit pocket
FierceHealthcare analyzed Securities and Exchange Commission proxy filings for the largest health insurers in the U.S. (Getty/zest_marina)

UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann earned a cool $18.1 million in total compensation in 2018—316 times the median salary of a company employee. 

CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo took home $21.9 million in total compensation last year, 618 times the median salary of an employee at the company. 

The trend isn’t rare among the biggest names in health insurance. FierceHealthcare reviewed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proxy filings for eight of the largest insurance companies and found that several of their chief executives earned a raise last year—and that the pay ratios at these companies can be staggering. 

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Merlo’s base salary was $1.6 million, and his total compensation was bolstered significantly by $10.1 million in stock awards and nearly $3.4 million in option awards. Meanwhile, CVS employees earned a median salary of $35,529 last year, according to the filing.

Merlo's realized, or take-home, pay totaled about $15.2 million, as he did not exercise any stocks or options last year. Total compensation and realized compensation are two ways to approach measuring executive pay, one which shows total compensation, including investments that may not turn into direct pay for several years, and one focusing on what a leader took home in a paycheck. 

RELATED: Health insurance CEOs earned $342.6M in 2017 

A look at all eight executives' total compensation is below:

Wichmann, by contrast, took home about $21.5 million last year thanks to stocks and options he exercised and that vested.

All told, the CEOs of UnitedHealth, CVS, Anthem, Centene, Cigna, Humana, Molina Healthcare and WellCare Health Plans collectively earned $143,504,848 in total compensation in 2018, according to the filings. 

Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene, took home the largest total paycheck in 2018, earning more than $26.1 million total. That includes a $1.5 million salary and more than $17 million in stock awards.

That’s 396 times the median employee salary of $66,021 in 2018. 

Neidorff's take-home pay was slightly less, at $21 million, according to the filings. The full breakdown of each CEO’s 2018 total compensation is included below: 

How does all of this compare to 2017? Wichmann, for example, earned about $700,000 more in total compensation last year, and Merlo earned a raise of nearly $10 million. All told, the CEOs earned $131.8 million in realized pay last year, a significant drop from more than $340 million the year prior.

RELATED: Here’s how much more executives of publicly traded hospitals made than average workers last year 

But the largest pay boost was for Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux, who served her first full year in the chief executive role in 2018. She earned just $2.2 million in total compensation in 2017, which jumped to $14.1 million last year. Boudreaux's take-home pay was just over $3.9 million.

WellCare CEO Kenneth Burdick's pay increased on both fronts. He earned $12.7 million in total compensation, compared to $11.3 million in 2017, and his realized pay increased substantially from $9.1 million in 2017 to nearly $21 million last year.

Not all of the CEOs earned a raise, according to FierceHealthcare’s review of the data. Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana, earned $19.8 million in total compensation in 2017 and took a $3 million cut last year to about $16.3 million. Broussard's take-home pay, however, was over $25 million thanks to stock options, also a decrease from $34 million in 2017.

Molina CEO Joseph Zubretsky also took a pay cut in 2018, according to the reports, with his total compensation decreasing from $19.7 million in 2017 to $15.2 million last year. He took home $5.2 million—a $1 million increase from 2017.

Cigna CEO David Cordani's total compensation in 2018 went up slightly, from $17.6 million to $18.9 million. However, his take-home pay took a nosedive, dropping from more than $43 million in 2017 to $19.1 million in 2018 because he did not exercise any of his stock options.

Graphics designed by Eli Richman.

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