WASHINGTON – The head of Colorado’s state health exchange has asked for an end-of-the-year raise and bonus even though the website has enrolled fewer than half the people who were supposed to purchase health insurance through December.
Patty Fontneau, president and CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, currently earns $190,549. Her chief operating officer and chief financial officer earn $164,800 each.
The salaries are supported by taxpayers.
Fontneau received a $5,000 raise in 2012 and is eligible for annual bonuses of up to 10 percent with salary increases of 3 percent, according to documents from Connect for Health Colorado.
The CEO’s salary increase was discussed among the organization’s board of directors in an October executive session, and it has not yet been granted by the board.
“Given the poor performance for the first two months of enrollments, I think it’s incredibly audacious for the executive director to request a salary increase,” Connect for Health Colorado board member Ellen Daehnick said in an interview. “I think most people would feel like if you’re a CEO and you’re significantly underperforming the goals you helped set, then you layer on it that the money comes from public funds, and I think it’s highly inappropriate.”
It hasn’t been decided whether the full board or the three-member executive committee will make the final decision about Fontneau’s raise, but all have been invited to participate in discussions, said Connect for Health Colorado spokeswoman Myung Oak Kim.
The news of the raise request was first reported by the University of Colorado publication Solutions.
According to more than 100 pages of board emails obtained by The Denver Post through sources and through the Colorado Open Records Act, Daehnick and some other board members are increasingly frustrated that those running Connect for Health Colorado do not have aggressive contingency plans in case the website fails to meet enrollment projections next year.
The number of enrollees in the state health exchange is far below what health officials predicted.
Earlier this week, exchange officials reported that 9,980 people have purchased private health plans so far.
The projected enrollment numbers for this month, even on the low end, were 22,215. On the high end, health officials projected that more than 61,000 people would have purchased health insurance by the end of December.
Colorado is one of 17 states with its own insurance marketplace.
The Colorado exchange is supported through a blend of federal grants totaling $177 million that could run through mid-2016.
That cash supports the technology enhancements and staff. It also supports a $118,000 contract that the Colorado exchange has paid out this year to the public relations firm OnSight Public Affairs, according to the Solutions news group. The exchange also has an in-house communications director who earns $97,849 annually.
The exchange is supposed to be self-sustaining by 2016, through a mix of fees paid by those buying coverage and by insurers and from some reserve funds from a nonprofit. But that success depends on healthy enrollment numbers.
If enrollment numbers don’t “peak and exceed our expectation, we’re going to have to get very creative,” Chief Financial Officer Cammie Blais said.
Also alarming to some board members is the older, potentially sicker, people gravitating to buy health insurance in Colorado. Only 27 percent of those who have purchased plans so far are 34 years old or younger, while 43 percent are ages 55 to 65.
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, recently pressed the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services on the functionality of Colorado’s exchange website and on whether it has been tested for privacy protections.
“There are significant concerns with how the exchange is working in Colorado. Is it sustainable going forward?” Gardner said. “They are far below the projected enrollment numbers. People are not signing up for individual insurance plans at the rate they need to make it sustainable.”