Shortly after learning he had been named the 2015 Executive of the Year by NJBIZ — and shortly after the announcement of Horizon's new health care alliance had resulted in a series of accusations and lawsuits — Robert A. Marino had only one question at an editorial board meeting: “Do you want your award back?”
It was the humble and self-deprecating personality Marino had shown in his nearly four decades of experience at Blue Cross Blue Shield companies.
A personality that sometimes hid Marino’s style as both CEO and chairman of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey: He is not afraid to take bold action in the face of what would surely be criticism.
It’s the reason why Marino was honored during the NJBIZ Business of the Year event Monday night at The Palace in Somerset.
“Whatever the business climate may be, in my view, successful businesses are those that listen to their customers, are innovators and are not afraid to challenge the status quo,” Marino said after receiving the award.
“In my industry, it is obvious that businesses and taxpayers and consumers are getting crushed by the cost of health care. Horizon has attempted to do what I think many successful businesses and corporate leaders in this room do every day. That is listen to your customer’s needs.”
Marino has been in the spotlight since Horizon announced an innovative health care partnership, accompanied by an affordable insurance product, in mid-September. The OMNIA Health Alliance and tiered network plan have since become highly politicized issues.
“Anytime you introduce change, there is always going to be opposition,” Marino said. “There are always going to be people who feel the status quo is more acceptable. We just need to keep moving forward.
“We’re committed to what we are doing and believe it’s the right thing for New Jersey. We believe Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is a very special organization in the state and we really care about our customers.”
Marino’s willingness to be so bold — and to do so when his market share indicated he didn’t have to — was one of the biggest reasons NJBIZ Publisher Thomas F. Curtin said Marino was selected for the honor.
“Bob’s willingness and eagerness to impact change in a situation where so many others would have remained passive, sets him apart,” Curtin said. “He is attempting to rethink how one of the biggest industries in the country operates. For that, we applaud him.”
The OMNIA plan was described by attendees of the ceremony as Marino’s crowning achievement and potentially the legacy of his career at Horizon.
Marino started his career with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey before taking a position with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in New York. At Empire BCBS, he served as vice president of national accounts and assistant vice president of professional benefits administration.
He returned to New Jersey in 1997 to serve as vice president, national market division, and was promoted to senior vice president of the market business units. In 2008, he was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer. He was promoted to CEO and chairman in 2011.
Marino was born and raised in New Jersey, earning a B.A. in economics from Rutgers University.
He serves on a number industry-related boards, including his work on the board of directors for the National Institute for Health Care Management.
Marino has been active in the New Jersey business community, including Choose New Jersey, the Newark Regional Business Partnership and the Newark Alliance. He also has been active in a number of community-related organizations and currently is a trustee of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark.
He credits his father for his success and inspiration: “While he did not have the educational opportunities I had, he instilled the values that drove my business career: honesty, integrity, hard work and respect for people,” he said.