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Power 50 Health Care: (No. 25 - 11)

- Last modified: March 20, 2017 at 10:16 AM
25 William Castner (10)
25 William Castner (10)
Perhaps the toughest person on the list to slot, so we’ve placed him right in the middle. Horizon’s trumpeted OMNIA plan was in disarray when he arrived, and most credit Castner, a skilled lawyer and political operative, for righting the ship for the state’s largest insurer. The lawsuits have all but disappeared, as has the threat of legislation, which never got to the floor of the Legislature. His relationships with the state’s hospital systems are solid. Detractors have questioned his relationship with the Legislature due to a political rift in South Jersey, but his supporters feel the rift is part of the political game and that Castner continues to have influence in Trenton. The year ahead is big for Horizon as it is facing two big issues in Trenton: the governor’s desire to gain a share of its reserve fund and changes in out-of-network legislation.
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Perhaps the toughest person on the list to slot, so we’ve placed him right in the middle. Horizon’s trumpeted OMNIA plan was in disarray when he arrived, and most credit Castner, a skilled lawyer and political operative, for righting the ship for the state’s largest insurer. The lawsuits have all but disappeared, as has the threat of legislation, which never got to the floor of the Legislature. His relationships with the state’s hospital systems are solid. Detractors have questioned his relationship with the Legislature due to a political rift in South Jersey, but his supporters feel the rift is part of the political game and that Castner continues to have influence in Trenton. The year ahead is big for Horizon as it is facing two big issues in Trenton: the governor’s desire to gain a share of its reserve fund and changes in out-of-network legislation. An attorney with Brach Eichler LLC, Manigan continues to be a major player among health care attorneys in the state. “He is a stud,” one source said. As with some of the players on this list, Manigan’s personality plays a role. Said another: “He’s the guy you can have beer with. He separates himself from the herd that way. He’s not your typical lawyer, but is very well versed in health care law.” The McCarter & English attorney continues to be a sought-after voice on legal affairs in health care. He also played key roles in financial restructuring for two of the three largest health systems in the state. He is an annual no-brainer selection to the list. Independently, they may not appear to have the same pull on health care issues as compared with previous years, but, collectively, they always are some of the first names insiders rattle off when that they talk about health care power players in the state Legislature. Some sit as chairs of committees related to health care, automatically giving them power in the arena. And each of them has led the charge, at some point in the recent past, against out-of-network bills. Thus far, however, all remain unsuccessful in getting a major piece of legislation signed into law. No one questions, however, their commitment to the sector. “Health care is complex, and most politicians have a 90-second attention span,” one source said. “Sound bite is not the way to make policy on health care, so most politicians have withdrawn from it (health care).” Stanton is already a force, but she is faced with the challenge of roping in her international reputation and making it work for New Jersey. Her position as the first dean of the new Hackensack Meridian-Seton Hall medical school gives her power by virtue of her position to impact the future of the health care industry. The school will be the only private medical school in the state. The innovative and collaborative environment she is able to create with partner Hackensack Meridian on behalf of Seton Hall, as well as the recently announced plans for an incubator space on the medical school campus gives her all the tools necessary to be impactful. With the launch of Rutgers Health, and a partnership with University Hospital for a bench-to-bedside program in cancer care, Rutgers Medical School is blossoming just the way it was intended to in 2013, when the state reorganized the state school. With the growth comes the need to expand the brand. Rumor has it, Rutgers will have a response to compete with Seton Hall University’s medical school in the upcoming year. Strom, the chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, should be heavily involved. As health care information technology continues to grow, Gregorio has focused on projects that impact the industry as senior executive director at the New Jersey Innovation Institute on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology. Gregorio, one insider said, is especially known for his work helping physicians adapt to new federal regulations. “They are a group of people to look to for leadership in this area,” the source said. That leadership role is expanding. Most recently, NJII’s partnership with Hackensack Meridian will elevate the institute, which already has a national presence, onto a global platform. The innovator in South Jersey just got a huge bump with his new position as senior vice president of integrated health and human services for UnitedHealthcare’s national group. Already recognized nationally for his work with addressing social determinants of care, Brenner’s nearly two decades of dedication to Camden and service with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers have paid off. The new role answers critics who had said he has only been able to succeed with his work because of the influx of funding, and that his work cannot be implemented without significant financial backing. And, while he is moving to a national stage, he’s not actually moving. He will continue his work from Camden in a situation that can only be considered good for the state. Schwimmer continues to make a name for herself, stepping out of the shadow of her predecessor as CEO and president of the Health Care Quality Institute, David Knowlton. She has become a central source for information for many industries, and continues to take the institute in a different direction. “She’s is different than Knowlton, but still powerful,” one insider said. Another added that her power stems from her influence in Trenton. “She has the ears of many of the legislative folks,” the source said. Another credits her for her ability to get people together and that she is seen as a multifaceted player. “Linda is a leader, diplomat and trusted health care resource,” the person said. “Her voice holds considerable sway in our state.” Some insiders feel they don’t hear as much about her anymore, now that she’s a part of the bigger RWJBarnabas system. Others say don’t be fooled. And that RWJBarnabas’ president of the southern region is still influential and “has a Rolodex that’s still pretty good” — not that anyone uses a Rolodex anymore. But if you’re looking for a reason why she remains a huge power player in health care, consider her connections outside of it. As the new chair of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, she has a unique perch from which to interact with the rest of the state. What would make us put the head of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans so high? How about a movement in Washington, D.C., to repeal and replace the biggest piece of health care legislation in history? Or a movement from to grab a large share of the largest insurer’s reserves? Or a governor’s mission to change how health care pays for treatment for addiction? Representing the health plans at such a tumultuous time puts Sanders in a consistently challenging spot. But his expertise on the insurance industry is well-regarded, and legislators respect him, insiders say. How much so? Some might question why he isn’t higher. Many are impressed with the pace at which O’Dowd, the senior executive vice president at Cooper, is “picking up on health care,” considering his most recent position as Gov. Chris Christie’s chief of staff. But those who know him better recall he was involved with the industry when he was with the Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Some believe he is being groomed by Norcross to take over the Cooper system. Regardless of the future, there is no doubt he continues to be a relevant player in health care now. “He’s on speaking terms with everyone,” one insider said. Many feel the chief financial officer is the No. 2 to Barry Ostrowsky at RWJBarnabas and the next in line for the top spot. But just as many feel Ostrowsky is not going anywhere anytime soon. That being said, Picerno is making a name for himself in the system and around the state and is involved in absolutely everything at RWJBarnabas. His reputation with other leaders is stellar. “In my experience, he is the best ever,” one insider said. Some say he hasn’t done enough to raise Atlantic Health System’s stature in the state; others feel he has spent the time reshaping the entire system since being named its CEO two years ago. The bigger consensus is this: He has “all the tools” to wield power in the state as head of its third-largest system. “How is he going to use them? What’s his next step?” one source said. “Will he leave in five years when his contract is up? Is this just a stepping stone?” Though Gragnolati hasn’t done much to integrate in the state (“Get to know his neighbors,” as one person said), his government lobby is powerful and keeping him in play, insiders say. And his flagship hospital, Morristown Medical Center, is one of the top in the state and the tri-state region. Stearns already was a key player in health care at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association when she made the jump to law firm Gibbons P.C. in February 2015. Two years later, her stock is still climbing. She not only has grown her reputation in Trenton as Gibbons’ director of government relations and administrative director of the capital office, she has grown it with the new consumer health care think tank she now heads, Better Choices, Better Care NJ. More than anything, she is a go-to player on all the issues. “People in health care whisper in her ear,” one source said. Another added: “She gets things done and is very effective. She’s energetic and knows all the players.”

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