The $9 million pay cut

Our view: A reminder that a nonprofit's mission is not about money

July 17, 2008

Former CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Chief Executive Officer William L. Jews may be two years gone from his old job, but he's clearly not been forgotten, at least not by Maryland Insurance Commissioner Ralph S. Tyler. This week, Mr. Tyler ruled that Mr. Jews' nearly $18 million retirement package violated state law and ordered it reduced by about half.

Mr. Jews has had his difficulties with insurance regulators before. Five years ago, it was then-Commissioner Steven B. Larsen who thwarted Mr. Jews' attempt to convert CareFirst to a for-profit entity, sell it to a California company and reap a much larger windfall for himself and other senior executives.

Mr. Tyler's decision echoes many of the same concerns about CareFirst management expressed at the time. Indeed, central to the commissioner's decision is the prospect that the pay package violates the very legislative reforms passed in 2003 in the wake of the CareFirst brouhaha. The concern then, as now, is that CareFirst's board is too focused on making money and not enough on the nonprofit's core mission of providing affordable, accessible health insurance, helping the uninsured, and improving the health of all residents in communities where the company operates. Current management would be wise to take note.

Mr. Jews left the company on a better financial footing then when he found it. Even with this decision, his payout will be nearly $9 million - and he'll have the comfort of knowing the money CareFirst saves on severance can be used to help people far less fortunate.

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