Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Health Care Service Corp.
As executive vice president and chief operating officer of Health Care Service Corp. — and, previously, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota — Colleen Reitan has amassed a wealth of executive experience in nearly every facet of the managed care industry, including claims management, information technology, internal governance and compliance, financial and actuarial management and, most recently, health care reform implementation. Under her operational leadership, HCSC's Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in Texas and Illinois have each consistently ranked highest in member satisfaction among commercial health insurers. In her spare time, she is an avid skier.
What’s your advice for women entering this field?
We’re at a point in time right now where managed care is probably the most dynamic sector of the health care industry, largely because of all the changes that are happening under health care reform. So my advice to young women would be that this work requires using an equal mix of your head and your heart. I’d also encourage them to be willing to take risks, and to not be afraid to make lateral moves within the industry. There’s a lot to learn in this field, and the more you’re willing to take on different types of roles, the greater the investment you make in yourself.
What attracted you to this industry?
The business of health insurance is important work, because you’re providing a service that’s really important to people and often becomes the most important thing to them, either in times of joy such as childbirth or in times of great struggle, such as a fight against cancer. In that regard, it couldn’t be more fulfilling. Secondarily, it’s complicated work, and there are always a lot of problems to be solved. It takes a lot of creativity and a willingness to try different things, and it’s always been very fast-paced. I thrive under those conditions, so for someone like me, it’s a very rewarding field to be in.
What aspects of your job give you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
It’s definitely been having the opportunity to solve problems and implement strategies by working through and with some really great people. That’s easily the part of my job that gives me the most energy. It’s not always positive tasks, either. Sometimes you’re going to have to deal with things that didn’t work out the way you intended them to, but working with the kind of people that are drawn to this industry — and more specifically, this company — is a great joy and a whole lot of fun.
Outside family, what woman has been your role model?
Fortunately for me, there are so many great women who work within the health care industry. Early on in my career, some of my role models were high-level hospital administrators, and they were very open to my doing informational interviews with them so I could learn more about their work. They were really willing to help a young woman imagine what life would be like further up the chain. Further into my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of women who were or still are CEOs of health insurers, whom I admire greatly for their intelligence and their understanding of the industry. To be honest, I’ve really never found there to be a shortage of great women role models in the health care field.
What’s at the top of your bucket list and why?
From a professional standpoint, I feel a huge amount of responsibility toward helping this organization to navigate through all of the changes that are occurring under the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act. That’s a very broad goal, but it’s really high on my list. On the personal side, I think my goal is to ski more, and to be healthy enough to be able to ski until I’m 80.
What is your secret vice?
A glass of wine, every now and then. I’m not likely to give that up any time soon. I know if I didn’t drink any at all, I’d be healthier, but that’s not enough of a motivation to give it up.