Capitol Alert

Covered California chief Peter Lee gets $52K bonus

Peter V. Lee, the head of the state’s health insurance exchange, was awarded a 20-percent bonus for his efforts in launching the federal program in California.

The performance-based award, which pencils out to $52,528 on top of his base salary of $262,644, was disclosed at the exchange’s board meeting Thursday. Covered California board member Diana Dooley said officials would look at possibly adjusting Lee’s base pay in the coming months.

The bonus “is some way to show our recognition,” Dooley told Lee. “And, thanks Peter for the leadership you’ve provided and the good work you’ve done.”

It comes after the agency enrolled more than 1.2 million people in private health insurance plans and represents Lee’s first bonus since he took the helm three years ago. Last month, Lee unveiled a better-than-expected 4-percent average rate increase for the coming year. He has been credited with being the top guide and pitchman for California’s relatively smooth handling of the Affordable Care Act.

A former head of the nonprofit Pacific Business Group on Health, Lee has spent most of his career working on healthcare quality and access issues. Despite his early successes at the exchange, he has acknowledged that officials could have done a better job out of the gate in outreach and enrollment of Latinos.

The bonus came on the same day that officials announced a pair of personnel decisions. Amy Palmer, a former associate secretary of external affairs for the California Health and Human Services Agency, will serve as director of Covered California’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. She will earn a salary of $160,000 a year.

Kirk Whelan, a veteran of Kaiser Permanente, was named the exchange’s director of the Individual and Small Business Sales Division. He will make $170,000.