Exchange boss withdraws request for pay hike

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

The head of Colorados health exchange is withdrawing a request for a raise.

The attention about my compensation has been a distraction at a time when we are all focused on helping Coloradans enroll in health coverage, Patty Fontneau, the CEO and executive director of Colorados health exchange said in a written statement Friday.

We have asked the board to table any discussions about compensation for management, so that we can focus on enrollments during this critical time, Fontneau said.

Its unclear from the statement whether any other exchange staffers will be eligible for annual pay hikes or bonuses or whether Fontneau will renew her request for a raise in the new year. (Click here to read more about Fonteaus request for a raise: Exchange boss wants pay hike)

The news came after the Denver Post reported that Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, planned to introduce legislation in Congress barring CEOs of state health exchanges from getting taxpayer-supported bonuses or raises. (Click here to read more.)

Fontneau gets paid $190,550 a year and received a 10 percent bonus last December. The exchanges other executives, Chief Operating Officer Lindy Hinman and Chief Financial Officer Cammie Blais, both get paid $164,800 a year and each also received a 10 percent bonus last year.

The Connect for Health Colorado board is meeting on Monday. Previously board members have considered executive pay behind closed doors in executive session. But some board members pressed for an open discussion of any pay hikes and felt it was inappropriate to hand out raises when enrollment numbers are still lagging below projections. (Click here to see projections.)

Enrollments appear to be climbing in December. Exchange spokesman Ben Davis said a record number of people 1,090 signed up for private health insurance on Wednesday. But Davis declined to give any further information that would indicate whether Wednesdays enrollments signal a new trend.

Through the end of November, 9,980 people had signed up for private insurance through Colorados exchange. (Click here to read Boomers dominate health sign-ups.) The lowest projections had called for at least 14,700 people to buy insurance during the first two months and the most optimistic estimate hovered at 40,000 people for October and November.

Low enrollments could threaten the financial viability of the exchange and in some places particularly in resort areas where prices are higher coverage guides are having trouble enticing people to sign up. (Click here to read Dont give up, commissioner urges angry ski resort residents.)

In Fontneaus statement, she praised the work of employees at Connect for Health as they try to get people to sign up for health plans that become mandatory next year.

To a person, my staff and team of contractors have worked tirelessly to launch and improve our health insurance marketplace and I am proud of their accomplishments, especially amid many external challenges, Fontnea said. While we have much more work to do to improve our operations, we are encouraged to see that enrollments are hitting record levels.