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Where do health insurance companies’ billions in profits go? A lot of it rises to the top

On February 19, Modern Healthcare shared that many insurance execs’ pay rates far surpass the revenue growth of their own companies.

The article was based on consulting firm BDO’s recently released Health Insurance Executive Insights Report, which covers compensation for executives and senior managers at health insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group. According to the report, insurance execs’ direct compensation rose up to 14% during 2019-2020, which is not a bad bump—especially when you consider that the average revenue increase for the companies they run was… 3%.

It’s hardly a revelation that executives at the big health insurers take home colossal pay packages. After all, major health insurers are still sitting on piles of pandemic windfall revenues while arguably trying to avoid paying for emergency COVID-19 care. Those profits have to go somewhere.

And speaking of wonky pay ratios… Consider that CEOs at Centene, Cigna, and United all made more than $15 million in 2019, with the CEOs at Cigna and United being paid almost 95 times more than the average general internal medicine physician.

Another notable number from the report: Average compensation for CEOs whose companies brought in more than $4 billion was 20% higher than CEOs whose companies earn less than that figure. Our interpretation of this? The incentives to lower costs for customers and to adequately reimburse providers are far lower priorities than generating revenue.

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