Patricia Clarey, a top healthcare company executive and former chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been appointed to the board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the country’s largest government pension fund.
Clarey, a Studio City resident, represents the state personnel board on the 13-member panel that manages investments to pay for retirement benefits and health coverage for 1.3 million state, school and local public employees, retirees and their families.
The appointment comes at a difficult time for CalPERS. The fund’s $178.3-billion portfolio includes stock, bond, real estate, hedge fund and commodity investments. It has lost about a quarter of its value since July 1, when it was worth $239.1 billion.
“Pat Clarey brings extensive experience in policy issues of importance to CalPERS,” said Rob Feckner, the board’s president.
Clarey is senior vice president and chief regulatory and external relations officer for Health Net Inc. of Woodland Hills, which provides health benefits to about 6.7 million people. She has also served in government affairs posts for Chevron Corp. and Transamerica and held executive positions in the administration of President Reagan and former California Gov. Pete Wilson.
But the potential for a conflict of interest will prevent Clarey from putting her knowledge of the health maintenance organization business to work on behalf of CalPERS.
Although Health Net currently holds no contracts with the giant pension fund, three of its competitors -- Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente -- do business with CalPERS.
“The fact that she cannot participate in healthcare discussions shouldn’t prevent her from using her experience in other areas because she is so talented,” said Anne Sheehan, chairwoman of the personnel board, who left the CalPERS board in December.
Clarey said she had asked the CalPERS board president not to appoint her to the committee that deals with health benefits.
She said she would not attend closed meetings in which contracts with health insurance providers were discussed or vote on healthcare issues as part of the full board.
Clarey said she would concentrate on the areas of corporate governance, securities regulation and investments.
“The way the board is structured, there’s very little experience in the private market,” she said. “I think that with the way the economic climate is, it is valuable experience. Don’t think I won’t be carrying my weight because I won’t be handling healthcare.”