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Women to Watch: Where are they now ...

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It's been 10 years since Business Insurance started Women to Watch program. To celebrate that anniversary, during 2016 we are running a series of occasional articles catching up with some of our honorees.

Karen Ignagni

President and CEO

EmblemHealth Inc.

New York

2006 Women to Watch

President and CEO

America's Health Insurance Plans

Washington

Karen Ignagni calls the work she does now, preparing and executing myriad changes for a large health insurer, an ongoing story of “transformation and innovation.”

The same could be said for the current head of EmblemHealth Inc.'s long career in health insurance, a field that has changed drastically since she started in the 1970s as a research analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and assistant director for a group lobbying for national health insurance.

“My focus is a little different, but everything I've done helped prepare me for this role,” she said.

Ms. Ignagni is all about aligning the business with the Affordable Care Act and making it work for Emblem, which serves 3.2 million people.

This is the first time she's worked directly for an insurer, where the challenges are different but the goals are much the same, she said. And that is, to her, making health insurance work for all.

“I think that the discussion about health care has been about access to care, and now what I think is important for the conversation to shift to sustainability, the cost side of the equation.”

Before she moved to EmblemHealth in late 2015, she was president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry association for health insurance companies, a role she held since 1993 when it was known as American Association of Health Plans. Before that she was director of the employee benefits department of the AFL-CIO. At one point she was also a staff member on the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, besides a stint at HHS.

“Over the last four years I spent a considerable amount of time working on operational issues,” she said. “Once the ACA was launched, it became clear that there was a unique opportunity and real leadership role for the health plan community to step up and partner with the government in making the promise of access to care a reality.”

For EmblemHealth, a nonprofit that gets its name from the people it serves — whom Ms. Ignagni says are workers who wear the emblems of nurses, firefighters and police — that meant using technology to better serve members.

“We have moved to begin our process of modernization,” she said. “We are moving from our legacy platform to 21st century state-of-the art technology…

“I feel honored to be here,” she added. “This plan has a long history in serving working families, and we have a multigeneration of families that have been on this plan and will continue,” she said. “There's a strong community focus and mission.”

Watch for the next profile in our "Where are they now..." series next month. You can read previous "Where are they now..." profiles by visiting this page.

To read the 2006 interview with Ms. Ignagni, click here.

To read profiles of all the Business Insurance Women to watch since 2006, click here.