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Power 50 Health Care: (No. 10 - 1)

- Last modified: March 20, 2017 at 10:16 AM
10 Michellene Davis (19)
10 Michellene Davis (19)
Davis is one of the most respected and revered executives in the state. And she is not bound to just her position as an executive with RWJBarnabas Health. People “always hear about her,” said one insider, noting that she appears to be ubiquitous at panels and conferences throughout the state. Not only is she an expert on matters of health care, she is a key person in representing women’s issues in her role as president of the Executive Women of New Jersey. But, when it comes to health care, she remains an authority on matters of policy, and has maintained her list of powerful contacts from working in Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration, insiders said. “Barry (Ostrowsky) has the title, but Michellene can get things done,” one source said. If the list were up to one powerful insider, “Barry is the No. 1 most important person (in the state) and Michellene is No. 2.” It has been said before — and certainly is worth repeating — that she is one of the reasons RWJBarnabas Health is so powerful. How impactful is Davis? Rumor has it, some legislators call her for advice before making a move. They know she will steer them in the right direction.
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Davis is one of the most respected and revered executives in the state. And she is not bound to just her position as an executive with RWJBarnabas Health. People “always hear about her,” said one insider, noting that she appears to be ubiquitous at panels and conferences throughout the state. Not only is she an expert on matters of health care, she is a key person in representing women’s issues in her role as president of the Executive Women of New Jersey. But, when it comes to health care, she remains an authority on matters of policy, and has maintained her list of powerful contacts from working in Gov. Jon Corzine’s administration, insiders said. “Barry (Ostrowsky) has the title, but Michellene can get things done,” one source said. If the list were up to one powerful insider, “Barry is the No. 1 most important person (in the state) and Michellene is No. 2.” It has been said before — and certainly is worth repeating — that she is one of the reasons RWJBarnabas Health is so powerful. How impactful is Davis? Rumor has it, some legislators call her for advice before making a move. They know she will steer them in the right direction. The Democratic state senator has, without a doubt, “carved a niche for himself” in health care. And not just overnight. This has been a passion of his since he started in the legislature nearly two decades ago — and long before it was such a hot topic. As chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, power comes with the territory. But Vitale’s impact is greater in the state, even compared with his peers in the legislature who have similar positions. “While most legislators have lost touch because of high turnover in the Christie administration, and they don’t know who to call, Vitale still has the attention of the governor,” one insider was quick to point out. He is continuing to push the out-of-network bill, and has been adamant in saying it will pass this year. He has also called for a group to work on the fallout of Medicaid expansion with the Health Care Quality Institute. Vitale understands the issues, insiders say, and works with stakeholders to try and pass fair legislature — which is why some have recently fallen through. Another insider said, “Joe Vitale has been the most active for the longest period of time, if you ask me.” Here’s one way to describe Conlin, and they are words almost everyone says: “I really like Kevin and I think everyone really likes Kevin,” an insider said. “He’s a really smart guy and good guy to deal with.” The word “gentleman” comes to mind. As does “leader.” And “architect.” OMNIA was his baby, one insider said. And after its rollout issues, it has proven to be a sound idea that helped elevate Horizon to a different level of power in the state last year. And that, in turn, only helped lead to another description: heir apparent. It’s no secret that Conlin is the heir apparent to Horizon CEO and President Robert Marino. His elevation to chief operating officer last spring indicated that. Some believe he’ll be moving into the big chair as early as next year, though others think the transition is still a ways off. Everyone agrees he is ready for more responsibility. He has established himself well in the state as a top strategy guy, something that always is needed in an industry that is changing as quickly as any. Horizon, another said, is lucky to have such a strong No. 2. “His responsibilities are growing, he’s the ‘go-to guy,’” another said. Here’s the question: How do you measure LeBenger’s impact and influence? You would have to start with Summit Medical Group, still the largest independent physician group in the state, with more than 700 providers. Some say the group, which LeBenger leads as CEO, was ahead of its time, capturing a market that was an outgrowth of hospital consolidation and insurance reform. And while some say the number of doctors SMG has is plateauing, others look at the growth of Summit Management Group, which houses the administrative division of the medical group, to counter that idea. “He’s been smart about his growth,” one insider said. Then there’s the unique partnership LeBenger was able to pull off with MD Anderson. The deal represents the first time the prestigious MD Anderson group has partnered with someone other than a hospital system. The cancer center, which will be based in Florham Park, held a groundbreaking last fall. It hopes to open next summer. When it does, it will represent another way to measure LeBenger’s impact. “He is a force to be reckoned with,” one insider said. “He sees the future of health care.” We’ll admit, Pecora may not have been a household name when he first made the list in 2015. But if you don’t know him by now, you’re not paying attention to the changing nature of the industry. The chief innovation officer of Hackensack Meridian Health first made a name for himself as an innovator in the northern half of the state with his data venture, Cancer Outcomes Tracking and Analysis. COTA, as it’s called, helped bring international recognition to Hackensack Meridian, including a trip to a prestigious event at the Vatican. Last December, he helped HMH create a partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering. The partnership will study cancer research and treatment while helping to further elevate Hackensack’s already high status in the region. Earlier this month, he was part of yet another innovative initiative, as Hackensack Meridian announced plans to use $25 million to start an incubator for health care ideas with the New Jersey Innovation Institute. “He is someone who is doing really novel and interesting things” for New Jersey, one insider said. “He’s a big part of what is going at Hackensack Meridian; he deserves to be high on the list,” said another. This list will be filled with government affairs experts who are hired to influence state legislators. And these two lawmakers are at the top of their wish lists. As the gatekeepers between the governor and stakeholders, Prieto and Sweeney hold great influence over the state’s health care industry solely for their ability to bring bills to a vote. But their power is greater than that, since health care has increasingly become a political issue in recent years. With health systems being the largest employers in some districts, and as the battles over health care take place at the federal level, the industry is on everyone’s radar and in everyone’s interest. And while we acknowledge that Gov. Chris Christie ultimately has the ability to pass or veto bills, the ability to bring them to the vote needed to get to his desk is a strong position to hold. Sweeney and Prieto do just that. As the head of the state’s largest insurer (by far), Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, you would think an attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, plus a money grab from the governor, would be a major disruption and cause for alarm. In New Jersey … it’s just another day at the office. “When you’re as big and powerful as they are, you are going to be in the crosshairs,” one insider said. “But when you are as big and powerful as they are, you can handle it.” Last year, Horizon was under attack for its OMNIA plan and potentially vulnerable to competition. That’s no longer the case, as Horizon is clear of Oscar Health and the Health Republic of New Jersey in the insurance marketplace, and has seen a retreat by UnitedHealthcare and Aetna. Legal challenges and public relations battles over OMNIA are gone, too. “I tend to believe the OMNIA product is an appropriate product. But it was rolled out in a way that sabotaged the correctness of the product,” one insider said. The biggest worry now is the governor’s grab at the company’s reserves — a move that appears to have few supporters so far. He is one of the major political power brokers and business leaders in the state. Quick, try to name a power list he wouldn’t be on. Most importantly, Norcross has been successful in the overall venture that is Camden, keying a resurgence that is transforming the city and has benefited Cooper University Health, where Norcross is chair. He still gets kudos for bringing MD Anderson to Cooper, and then he helped MD Anderson move into North Jersey with a partnership with Summit Medical Group. Then there’s his influence in the state Legislature, which cannot be overstated. “He influences as many votes as anyone,” one insider said. That was seen when Cooper earned the EMS business in the area, a move that was seen as Norcross at his finest. “There isn’t a layperson that has done more for his organization than George Norcross,” one insider said. “He may be the powerful man in every industry in the state, I don’t know, but ... Cooper is a fine institution, it is alive and to a certain extent thriving because of George Norcross. He may do things unconventionally, but it would not be fair to not acknowledge how effective he has been.” He is the CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, the largest health care system in the state. And while that alone is enough to put him high on the list, it only begins to describe his influence. RWJBarnabas is taking the lead on a number of urban initiatives, bringing wellness programs to areas that historically have been underserved. It also is in front on mental health and addiction. Of course, the merger with the Robert Wood Johnson system helped give Barnabas Health and Ostrowsky a huge influence with the state's medical schools. “Barry is not just one of the top executives in health care, but one of the top executives in the state,” said one insider. Ostrowsky is a fabulous speaker, captivating audiences with off-the-cuff remarks that are both enlightening and entertaining. He also has recruited top talent, adding power players Michellene Davis, Jennifer Velez and Amy Mansue, among others. More importantly, he is a leader in two areas NJBIZ feels all executives should value: Putting Jersey first in his dealings and making sure women not only have a seat at the table, but in powerful positions of impact. Here’s the most challenging part about naming Robert Garrett No. 1 on the NJBIZ Power 50 Health Care list for the second time in three years: Coming up with the biggest reason why. There are so many. Garrett’s accomplishments as co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health are so numerous and so wide-ranging, it’s hard to pick out one as the no-doubt-about-it moment. What’s next? Even our insiders don’t know. “While everyone else is sleeping, he’s strategizing on what his next deal is,” the insider said. “There’s a bit of a running joke that, if Bob is at a red light for too long, he’ll come up with the next person he can partner with.” But, let’s be clear. Garrett’s success isn’t all about partnerships. The flagship hospital of his system, Hackensack University Medical Center, annually is ranked the best in the state. And Garrett and his team are noted experts, literally asked to speak around the world. For all he’s accomplished, insiders say one thing remains clear: his commitment to Hackensack Meridian and the state of New Jersey. Just one more reason that Garrett is No. 1.

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