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President and Chief Executive Officer
America's Health Insurance Plans
Karen Ignagni began her career in health care issues in the 1970s as a research analyst at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and then the assistant director for a group lobbying for national health insurance. She also was a staff member on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. Prior to joining America’s Health Insurance Plans—then known as the American Assn. of Health Plans—in 1993, Ms. Ignagni served as director of the employee benefits department of the AFL-CIO.
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "This is a vibrant and innovative industry with a fantastic story to tell. Our leaders in this industry have been so focused on performing for employers and consumers they haven’t spent as much time on communicating what they are doing. They are changing the delivery system. It is important for our members to stand up straight and talk about that."
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "I would give the same advice to young women that I would give to young men. The advice would be to perfect your communication skills. Try to get to the point as quickly as possible. Learn to read quickly because you have to digest a great deal of information. If you desire to go into the lobbying field, do not focus simply on building political skills, but to be an effective lobbyist you must know the policy. Finally, you have to be open to the view points of others."
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "John Dunlop, the secretary of labor during the Ford administration, had a great influence on me. I met him when I was at the AFL-CIO and worked with him on pension and health issues. He was influential because he taught me that thoughtful people can always find a common purpose. It is far better to work collaboratively with individuals than the alternative. I learned to be very respectful other people’s points of view. He taught me that you always can learn something new by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. He was one of the smartest and most gracious individuals I ever have known.".
Business Insurance's report on "Women to Watch" is our attempt to identify some of the women who are leading change in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.