Ex-Blues CEO's $11M Severance Package Slaps Policyholders

John Commins, March 7, 2011

The public fury over the news that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts' former CEO received a compensation and severance package last year valued at between $9 million and $11 million is not a human resources debacle.

After all, Cleve Killingsworth didn’t negotiate this ridiculous overcompensation package with the folks at HR. It was voted on by the community leaders who sit on the nonprofit BCBSMA's  board – the same people who collect high five-figure salaries for a part-time job and talk about containing healthcare costs – people who really should know better.

And, BCBSMA has pointed out, the package was part of an employment contract negotiated in 2005, long before the recession began.

No. It’s not HR’s fault. However, the front-line employees in HR departments in every business in the Bay State that contracts through BCBSMA will face the disbelief and vexation of their fellow employees. They’ll rightly see this egregious payout as a slap in the face after years of ballooning premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, and tighter benefits. (In the interest of full disclosure, as a policyholder at BCBSMA, I am one of those vexed and disbelieving employees, although I don’t blame our wonderful HR folks.)

What were they thinking when the BCBSMA board approved this package? The Boston Herald notes that several members of the board – including Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce President Paul Guzzi ($84,463), and Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO ($72,700)  -- “have been public advocates for trimming soaring healthcare costs — even as they sat on a panel that quietly approved the departing chief’s golden parachute.”

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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