CVS' Merlo was the top paid health insurance CEO in 2019. Here's a look at what other payer CEOs earned

Health insurance CEOs earned a pretty penny in 2019.

At the top of the list is CVS Health chief Larry Merlo, who earned $36.5 million in total compensation last year. That was about $10 million ahead of the next-highest earner, Centene Corporation's Michael Neidorff.

CVS Health was also among the profitable payer companies overall last year, raking in $6.6 billion for the year.

Still, that's a significant pay bump from 2018, where Merlo earned $21.9 million in total compensation. The median CVS employee salary was $46,140 in 2019 coming out to a CEO pay ratio of 790:1.

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We've taken a look at the annual proxy statements for each of the seven biggest national insurers. Here's a full look at what their CEOs made in 2019:

The CEOs all earned similar base salaries last year, ranging from $1.3 million for Molina Healthcare CEO Joseph Zubretsky to $1.6 million for Merlo.

Merlo, however, earned $20.2 million in stock awards and $10.6 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation. 

Neidorff was the top earner among insurance CEOs in 2018 at $26.1 million, and his total compensation held steady in 2019 at $26.4 million. The median salary at Centene last year was $68,987, a ratio of 383:1.

Each CEO saw their pay increase in 2019, though none by a margin as large as Merlo.

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Molina Healthcare CEO Joseph Zubretsky saw the second-largest pay bump in 2019, earning $18 million in total compensation for the year compared to $15.2 million in 2018. The majority of his earnings were in stock awards, of which he raked in $13 million last year.

Anthem chief Gail Boudreaux, the lowest earner among the CEOs we analyzed, received $15.5 million in total compensation for 2019. That includes her $1.4 million base salary, $8.4 million in stock awards and $2.8 million in option awards.

Boudreaux also earned $2.7 million in other cash incentives.

UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann earned $18.9 million in total compensation, with $9.6 million of that coming from stock awards. UnitedHealth also boasts the third-largest CEO pay ratio, 348:1.

Humana produced the lowest CEO pay ratio of the insurers we examined. The insurer's chief Bruce Broussard earned $16.7 million in 2019, while the median salary at Humana was $73,669, for a 227:1 ratio.

Cigna CEO David Cordani earned $19.3 million in 2019, a compensation package that includes $10.4 million in stock awards and $3.6 million in other incentives.