Obamacare chief in California gets $53,000 bonus

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, discusses enrollment in the exchange during a talk in November.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s health insurance exchange awarded its executive director a one-time bonus of $53,000 after the state enrolled 1.2 million people in Obamacare coverage.

Covered California’s board chairwoman, Diana Dooley, said Peter Lee had not received a raise in three years, so the exchange granted the executive director a 20% incentive award based on his annual salary of $262,644.

Lee, a former healthcare official in the Obama administration, was instrumental in building California’s state-run marketplace.

Consumer advocates credited him with securing lower-than-expected rates from health insurers in his first two years on the job, and with surpassing the state’s enrollment goals.


California accounted for about 15% of the overall U.S. enrollment of 8 million people in individual policies under the Affordable Care Act.

The state also avoided many of the online glitches that plagued the federal exchange at and other state sites.

Several state exchange directors didn’t survive the rollout of Obamacare this year. Officials in Oregon, Minnesota and Maryland all resigned as troubles mounted.

Lee hasn’t been immune to criticism. On Thursday, after his bonus was announced at a meeting of the exchange’s board, two state lawmakers faulted him for low enrollment among African Americans.


Lee defended the exchange’s performance and said he would follow up on their concerns.

In other personnel matters, Covered California announced two new executives. Amy Palmer was hired as director of communications and public relations. She will earn $160,000 a year.

Kirk Whelan, a former Kaiser Permanente executive, was named director of individual and small-business sales at a annual salary of $170,000.

Twitter: @chadterhune