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TOP 100 PRIVATELY HELD COMPANIES: No. 16 AmeriHealth feels it's expanding its business by limiting its territory

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    AmeriHealth New Jersey CEO Judith L. Roman: “(We are) very focused on our state.”
    AmeriHealth New Jersey CEO Judith L. Roman: “(We are) very focused on our state.” - (PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

    If you ask CEO Judith L. Roman, AmeriHealth New Jersey is racking up double-digit growth by “understanding who we are” — and who they aren't — and “maximizing our opportunities as a company completely focused on New Jersey.”

    Not to mention something called Obamacare.

    It’s all part of a formula that has placed AmeriHealth New Jersey at No. 16 on this year’s NJBIZ Top 100 Privately Held Companies list. In 2013, the Cranbury-based insurer reported $779 million in revenue, up nearly 25 percent from 2012.

    Roman, who took over the post in 2006, said she’s leading AmeriHealth in the direction of “the right markets for us as a local New Jersey company.” And that means pursuing a very different strategy than giant health insurers that court employers with workers who are scattered nationwide.

    Instead, Roman has gone after a largely Garden State membership by targeting small businesses, as well as larger employers with most of their workers based here.

    And then along came the Affordable Care Act.

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    AmeriHealth was one of only three insurance companies that opted to sell health insurance to New Jerseyans on the federal government’s new HealthCare.gov exchange in its 2014 inaugural year. And Obamacare brought AmeriHealth a surge of new customers.

    The company has about 350,000 members, including those with employer-sponsored health plans and individuals who purchase their own coverage. When open enrollment started last fall on HealthCare.gov, AmeriHealth only had about 10,000 individual members. The company figured Obamacare might bump that up to around 20,000, Roman said — but its success blew way past its projections.

    Click here to see the Top 100 Privately Held Companies list No. 100 through No. 1.

    Today, AmeriHealth has about 133,000 individual members, the majority of whom came on board via Obamacare. Roman credits the company’s decision to offer consumers what they wanted and needed: a wide choice of plans and prices.

    “If you look at AmeriHealth compared to our competition, I think we have a higher number of plans, and that was because of the diligent work we were able to do as a smaller company that is very focused on our state,” Roman said.

    AmeriHealth also attracted more individual business by expanding the geographic reach of its Medicare Advantage product, from 13 to 17 counties in 2014. Next year, it will cover all 21 counties.

    Indeed, Roman’s New Jersey strategy has meant taking on the entire state, moving beyond AmeriHealth’s traditional South Jersey core market.

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    “There is a big population living above Ocean County; we needed to figure how to go after that so we could grow our company,” she said, so AmeriHealth worked at building relationships. “If a customer or a broker or a hospital wants to reach the top management of AmeriHealth, they call us and we answer.”

    With its Jersey-centric strategy firmly in place, it then became a matter of “listening to our customers and focusing on offering the right products,” Roman said.

    And what Roman says she has heard loud and clear was small employers, in particular, have restrictive budgets when it comes to health care.

    “Pricing,” she said, “has to be competitive and affordable.”

    Q&A with top executives about top private companies: How would you describe the impact of Obamacare on your business?

    #16 AmeriHealth New Jersey
    Headquarters: Cranbury
    Founded: 1994
    Leader: Judith Roman
    Industry: Health insurance
    2013 revenue: $779 million
    Last year’s ranking: 17

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    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald

    Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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