Over protests from health insurers, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance has decided that executive compensation at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Independence Health Group, which operates through AmeriHealth New Jersey, is public information and must be disclosed.

Insurers' "assertions of proprietary interests" regarding executive pay "are at times tenuous and ultimately outweighed by the public's interest in such information," the insurance department said in a bulletin last month, notifying insurers that it would return to its long-standing position that executive pay is public.

"Insurance consumers have an interest in understanding how the executives of their insurers are being compensated," said the March 16 bulletin, signed by acting banking and insurance commissioner Marlene Caride, who released 2016 compensation records in response to a reporter's long-pending request.

Last year, amid a push by former Gov. Chris Christie to grab a chunk of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield's reserves to help pay for drug-addiction services for the poor and uninsured, Horizon did not fight an April 18, 2017, public records request for executive compensation information by Politico reporter Katie Jennings. She published that information on May 5.

Robert A. Marino, who retired as Horizon's chief executive at the end of last year, made $4.4 million in 2016, up from $2.7 million in 2015. Horizon had $12 billion in revenue that year.

Other health insurers, including Cigna, Anthem's Amerigroup New Jersey, Independence Health Group's AmeriHealth New Jersey, and Aetna, requested various degrees of redaction.

"These requests have not been uniform and have run the gamut from no redaction to the requested withholding of all information — including the names and compensation — from the [supplemental compensation exhibits]," the bulletin said.

Meanwhile, an April 25, 2017, Open Public Records Request by an Inquirer reporter for compensation information for Horizon, Aetna, AmeriHealth New Jersey, Cigna HealthCare of New Jersey, and Oxford Health Insurance Inc. was met with 15 extension requests.

Finally, the insurance department said on March 16 that it would provide "unredacted supplemental compensation exhibits" to the Inquirer on March 26, "unless we are served with a court-ordered injunction prohibiting release before that time."

It is not clear who may have been seeking an injunction to block the release of the compensation tables.

The compensation information provided by the regulators for publicly-traded companies Aetna and Cigna is inconsistent. Executive pay for those companies' five highest-paid officers is already available in proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Aetna's compensation table includes chief executive Mark T. Bertolini, whose total compensation in 2016, when Aetna had $63 billion in revenue, was $18.7 million, including $2.8 million in salary and bonus and $15.2 million in stock-based pay.

By contrast, Cigna's table did not include CEO David Cordani, who in 2016 had total pay of $15.3 million including a $1.2 million salary and $12.7 million in stock-based compensation. Cigna had $40 billion in revenue in 2016. Scott Evelyn, Cigna's president for New Jersey, New York, and part of Connecticut, was paid a total of $803,548 in 2016.

Independence CEO Daniel J. Hilferty was paid $3.6 million in 2016, including a $1.25 million salary and a $2.28 million bonus, down from a total of $4.4 million in 2015. Independence operates in 24 states and Washington D.C. It had $16.7 billion in revenue that year.

"To responsibly and successfully navigate the ever-changing complexities of health care, we must continually compete for, hire, and retain the best talent at every level," Independence spokeswoman Donna Farrell said. "Given the highly regulated nature of our business, information regarding executive compensation for our insurance companies is provided on a regular basis to the state agencies that regulate these companies."