UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley earned $14.5 million in 2015, according to a filing Friday, but he wasn't the top-earning health insurance executive.
The highest-paid CEO in 2015 was Michael Neidorff of Centene Corp., a national Medicaid insurer. He earned $20.8 million. That does not include the millions of dollars worth of unvested or unsold Centene stock that Neidorff owns.
Neidorff and the heads of several other publicly traded health insurers recorded larger cash bonuses and richer stock awards in 2015, a time that was defined by massive mega-mergers but also tumult in the Affordable Care Act's new insurance exchanges.
The pay packages for CEOs of seven of the eight largest insurers went up from 2014 to 2015, according to a review of the companies' annual proxy statements. Together, the CEOs of the eight major insurance companies made approximately $112 million in salaries, stock awards and options, bonuses and other compensation. The higher pay reflected the companies' rising stock prices that were fueled partially by a rush of mergers and acquisitions.
Centene completed its $6 billion deal for Health Net in March after a protracted review from California regulators. The acquisition opened up Centene to bigger plays in Medicare Advantage and the ACA exchanges, and it fortified the company's position as one of the largest, most powerful Medicaid insurers in the country. The company cited Neidorff's role in the Health Net deal, along with Centene's increased profitability, as the major reasons for his $3.6 million cash bonus.