May 22, 2010; Source: Philadelphia Enquirer | Of the many questions that will surely will be asked in the wake of the uproar over recent disclosures that the head of a nonprofit health insurer earned nearly $9 million last year, we hope they include “what took so long for the outrage?”

Among those angered about the generous pay to William Marino, CEO of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, is U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. A democrat from New Jersey, Lautenberg said in a statement late last week, “It is outrageous, unfair, and shameful that a nonprofit health-care executive would receive such a massive payout while increasing premiums and other costs on everyday people.” According to the Associated Press, Horizon, the state’s largest health insurer, covers more than 50 percent of New Jersey’s small businesses and nearly 75 percent of people who have individual health insurance policies.

Marino’s pay in 2009 was nearly $935,000 in salary plus bonuses of $7.8 million. The company said that amount included $3.9 million deferred from previous years. To try to quell anger sparked by an earlier Asbury Park Press story that brought Marino’s earnings to light, Horizon posted a “news alert” on its website saying the paper neglected to report that the insurance CEO had rejected raises in previous years and that, were it not for the deferred payments he received, his 2009 salary would have been lower than the previous year.

So far, that defense hasn’t quieted critics. In addition to Lautenberg, the president of the New Jersey Senate, Stephen Sweeney, has called for hearings to examine Horizon’s pay practices for executives. If, and when that happens, Horizon will be asked to explain how it justified paying a total of $24.3 million—$15.1 million more than in 2008—to the companies nine highest compensated executives last year.—Bruce Trachtenberg