Ignagni leaves AHIP, speculation on successor begins

May 22, 2015

After more than 20 years with America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) as president and CEO, Karen Ignagni is leaving the organization to become the CEO of New York-based EmblemHealth.She will replace Frank Branchini effective September 1. Branchini, who has served EmblemHealth and its predecessor GHI as president/CEO for 30 years, will continue as the Chair of the Board of Directors.

After more than 20 years with America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) as president and CEO, Karen Ignagni is leaving the organization to become the CEO of New York-based EmblemHealth.

She will replace Frank Branchini effective September 1. Branchini, who has served EmblemHealth and its predecessor GHI as president/CEO for 30 years, will continue as the Chair of the Board of Directors.

According to an AHIP press release, the board of directors will immediately conduct a national search for Ignagni's successor. In the meantime, the board has appointed Dan Durham, executive vice president for strategic initiatives, as interim CEO.

“I am honored to join this unique not-for-profit health plan at such an important time.  I look forward to working with Frank Branchini and our entire Board of Directors as we continue our commitment to serving diverse communities across New York,” said Ignagni in a press release.

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“The association/industry group market has become more competitive as members look to cut costs in membership and exhibiting fees,” says John Santilli, partner, Access Market Intelligence, in Trumbull, Conn. “Ignagni spent a good part of her career in the organization/government sector and may have thought this was as good as any time to move on. Ignagni was the public face and voice of the health insurance industry during the turbulent years of health reform, and by most accounts did a commendable job.”

Ignagni has navigated intense challenges from the Patient’s Bill of Rights to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Perhaps her greatest contributions have been highlighting the value and innovations of this industry,” according to an AHIP press release.

“[Ignagni] has fought more than her share of battles managing a disparate membership base and lobbying an increasingly contentious and low-performing Congress,” according to Managed Healthcare Executive Editorial Adviser Don Hall, a former health plan CEO, who is principal, Delta Sigma LLC, in Littleton, Colo. “I’m sure she's looking forward to new challenges … at EmblemHealth.”

EmblemHealth has a history of transparency and collaboration working with both labor and management in the provision of health coverage. EmblemHealth serves 3.4 million customers and has been a long-term leader in Medicare and Medicaid, since their inception, and more recently in the New York State of Health, New York's health coverage exchange. EmblemHealth's pioneering affiliated medical group practice, AdvantageCare Physicians (ACP) provides primary and specialty care to New Yorkers.

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“I wouldn’t be surprised to see an ex-Congressperson get recruited to fill her slot, although I think it would be a mistake because of the polarity of Congress,” Hall says.

Santilli believes that AHIP may look outside the association industry and recruit a health insurance executive to replace her.

Ignagni is the third person to recently depart from a powerful industry trade association post. The American Hospital Association’s Richard Umbdenstock is retiring this year, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)’s John Castellani will retire at the beginning of next year.