Power 50 Health Care

The 50 most powerful people in New Jersey health care

The sirens are wailing for health care in New Jersey. Camden has become a poster child for wasted health care dollars, the soaring costs of insurance coverage have slammed employers at the worst time, hospital operating margins are thinner than a cut from a scalpel — and all this is set against the backdrop of federal reform that has yet to win…

1) Barry Ostrowsky
Ostrowsky moves up from president to CEO of St. Barnabas Health Care System later this year, and he’s playing a key role in Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to restructure the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said to include bringing Newark’s University Hospital into the St. Barnabas fold. Described as “very bright, highly respected and down to earth,” Ostrowsky often is called the architect whose legal and technical expertise has been central to the growth of St. Barnabas into the state’s largest health care system.

2) David Samson
The co-founder of Wolff & Samson is Christie’s point man in closed-door talks on how to break up UMDNJ, which could split the medical school between Rutgers and NJIT and transfer state-owned University Hospital to St. Barnabas. The move would elevate the stature of Rutgers and NJIT, have a ripple effect on the economies of Newark and New Brunswick, and get New Jersey out of the expensive business of running a medical school and teaching hospital. An attorney who chairs the Port Authority, Samson can be found “at the center of a lot of deals” transforming health care in New Jersey.

3) Thomas B. Considine

As he implements federal health reform in New Jersey, the commissioner of the state Department of Banking and Insurance has to make sure that in 2014, the state is ready to launch health care exchanges for individuals and employers. And he may have the toughest job in state government — fixing the state’s dysfunctional health insurance market, where employers get hit with double-digit premium increases year after year, and a mere handful of companies can be bothered doing business here. He is “open and approachable,” with the people skills to bring warring adversaries to the table.

4) Jeffrey Brenner
The medical director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers works to improve health care for Camden’s poor, while cutting millions in wasted Medicaid spending. He’s been able to inspire some of health care’s adversarial stakeholders to work in unison for a common cause. Brenner’s efforts have made him a “rock star” in health care innovation, and inspired legislation aimed at spreading his success throughout New Jersey. A recent New Yorker profile of Brenner demonstrated how he makes urban health care seem not only hip and cool — he seems to be making it work.

5) Joseph F. Vitale

Losing his Senate health committee chairmanship didn’t diminish the stature of “the dean of health care,” who authored the state’s FamilyCare program and, as health committee vice chairman, is shaping legislation to regulate out-of-network medical bills and cut Medicaid waste by delivering better care to the poor. Nearly everyone we spoke with put Vitale near the top of their list — and above Loretta Weinberg, who replaced him as committee chair. A Democrat, Vitale has bipartisan respect as the sharpest mind in Trenton on health care issues. “Nobody knows more about health care than Vitale,” was a typical comment.

6) Robert J. Hugin
The CEO of Celgene, one of New Jersey’s most successful biotechs, has “Big Pharma clout and bio sizzle.” Hugin bridges the gap between pharma and biotech, playing an active part in the policy debates in Trenton that impact the drug and biotech industries.

7) George Norcross III
Norcross is building a new medical school in Camden with Rowan University, a watershed moment for the South Jersey Democratic Party power broker. The chairman of Cooper University Hospital’s board has overseen millions in investment in Camden, betting on health care as a catalyst to reverse the city’s decline.

8) Mary O’Dowd
The deputy health commissioner is the go-to person in the state Health Department. Dr. Poonam Alaigh, her boss, “looks at the big picture, policy — but you see Mary if you need something done on a particular issue. And she works well with the Legislature.”

9) Amy Mansue
If this list was based on popularity, Mansue might be No. 1. The Democrat was named by many, including Republicans, and is someone who gets along well with the Christie team. As CEO of Children’s Specialized Hospital, part of the Robert Wood Johnson system, Mansue has emerged as one of the most influential executives at Robert Wood Johnson.

10) Jennifer Velez
The Department of Human Services commissioner is responsible for the state’s Medicaid program, putting Velez at the center of Christie’s plan to address Medicaid’s looming $1 billion shortfall. A holdover from the Corzine team who’s respected as a seasoned official, Velez is a strong advocate for reducing the ranks of the uninsured.

11) Bob Marino
The veteran Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield executive who became CEO earlier this month, Marino “brings a much more consultative management philosophy” to the state’s largest health insurer. Insiders wonder if he’ll steer the insurer giant into the health care policy debates raging in Trenton and Washington.

12) Mark Manigan
A leading advocate for health care providers looking for a better deal from insurers, the Brach Eichler partner has helped shape legislation on hot-button issues like ambulatory surgery centers and payments to out-of-network providers. One insider says he’s respected on both sides of the aisle, “as well as within the executive branch.”

13) Barry S. Rabner
The hospital he’s building in Plainsboro “makes the rest of us look old,” one insider says. Princeton Health Care System’s CEO aims to showcase the latest in patient care at the new Princeton University Medical Center, and he presides over a fundraising powerhouse that blew past its initial goals.

14) Robert Schwaneberg
The reporter-turned-health care adviser convenes weekly meetings of the state officials doing the trench work to implement health care reform in New Jersey. When members of the health care community reach out to the governor’s office to give their input on health reform, it’s often Schwaneberg who takes the call.

15) Louis John Dughi Jr. / Russell L. Hewit
Talk about connected. This duo remains close with three powerful former colleagues of their law firm: Christie, William J. Palatucci and Jeff Chiesa. We doubt the former colleagues could pick one partner over the other, so we didn’t, either. Dughi & Hewit counsels pharmaceutical and insurance companies, plus hospitals and physicians.

16) Kenneth C. Frazier
The new president and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc. successfully managed the company’s Vioxx litigation — a huge challenge — in a previous position. Now, as the head of the behemoth company, Frazier is considered an ex-officio leader of the sector in New Jersey.

17) Richard Miller
One of New Jersey’s visionary hospital leaders, Vitua’s CEO has been out in front on adoption of medical technology, and is credited with building the kind of financially strong enterprise that’s enabling the company to build a replacement hospital in Voorhees.

18) Cavan M. Redmond
The Pfizer group president oversees the growing animal health division plus consumer health care and Capsugel, all in Madison. Redmond also is leading the company’s corporate strategy efforts. And if Redmond ever has trouble on a state issue, he can call a key connection in the governor’s office — former Pfizer executive Richard Bagger.

19) David Knowlton
The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute CEO has the ear of both parties: He works with legislative Democrats and served on Christie’s transition team. He’s a director of The Leapfrog Group, a national organization working to reduce medical errors, and played a key role in legislation to publicize infection rates at New Jersey hospitals.

20) Robert Garrett
While the hospital industry has consolidated for years in New Jersey, the CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center is leading a campaign to reopen shuttered Pascack Valley. Garrett’s leadership has taken HUMC into the top ranks for patient safety — a difficult benchmark for such a large institution.

21) Richard Bagger
The governor’s chief of staff seems to be involved in every major issue, including those impacting health care. As a former high-level executive at Pfizer, Bagger understands the state’s important pharmaceutical industry and can advocate for it from the top. Praised for his integrity and intellect, Bagger gets taken seriously.

22) Richard Popiel
The president and chief operating officer of Horizon Healthcare Innovations, a new venture from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, partners with physicians to improve patient care and limit costs, in a model the insurer hopes changes the way care is delivered. While doctors and insurance companies are natural adversaries, Popiel, a physician, is building collaborative relationships.

23) John P. Sheridan Jr.
“A big voice, and very successful” is how one insider described Cooper University Hospital’s CEO. The lawyer and former NJ Transit chief’s business acumen is credited with keeping Cooper on an even financial keel — a difficult task for a hospital on the front lines of providing medical care in Camden.

24) Annette Catino
Called a “formidable force of nature,” the CEO of QualCare is a forthright voice on health care policy issues: “trusted, respected and not adversarial.” She’s gone to court rather than pay sky-high bills from health care providers, and is a strong advocate for wellness and preventive-care programs.

25) John K. Lloyd
Meridian’s CEO had a vision for health care that has taken form as a system that’s financially stable, growing and diverse. Last year he acquired Bayshore Community and Southern Ocean Medical Center, bringing the system to six hospitals. “He has brought together hospitals that serve diverse populations, and gotten them to work together as one culture.”

26) Mark Trudeau
The arc is on the upswing for Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals’ in New Jersey, and Trudeau, as U.S. region president, leads the charge. The state obviously values Bayer, awarding it a $14 million retention grant in February. We wouldn’t be surprised if the profiles of Bayer and Trudeau continue to grow here.

27) Wardell Sanders
The president of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, whose members include the state’s health insurance companies, usually is in the room when Trenton debates health care laws, which almost always impact his membership — and he has a talent for getting lawmakers to consider his industry’s side of the issue.

28) Joel Cantor
A national expert on health care, the director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers recently was tapped to conduct a major research project that will shape the legislation creating the insurance exchanges mandated by federal health reform. Cantor has been an advocate for making health care accessible, affordable and effective.

29) Judith L. Roman
The AmeriHealth New Jersey CEO is an advocate for making health coverage affordable for the state’s employers, and is part of the current discussion over how to implement health care reform in New Jersey. Roman is a critic of legislation and regulation that drives up the cost of health care coverage for New Jersey businesses.

30) Stephen K. Jones
This “true leader” heads the principal teaching hospital of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The 30-year industry veteran will play a key role if the state implements the Kean commission’s recommendation to move the New Brunswick medical school to Rutgers University.

31) Betsy Ryan
As CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, Ryan fights for an industry that’s being turned upside down as federal reform slashes Medicare payments to hospitals. She’s a passionate advocate for keeping hospitals open and viable in the face of fiscal strains that threaten future hospital closures.

32) Michael McGuire
Bright and innovative, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey “has a lot of juice in the health care world” as he leads a major player in the health insurance marketplace. He meets frequently with business groups struggling to find affordable coverage and “makes the time to sit down and talk about issues.”

33) Timothy M. Ring
C.R. Bard Inc.’s chairman and CEO helped define medical technology as a core pillar of life sciences in New Jersey. Chairman of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, Ring also has been active on legislation impacting medical devices: “He’s sort of stepped out in that sector into the public square.”

34) Ronald J. Del Mauro
With just nine months until his retirement, the St. Barnabas CEO is still making deals. St. Barnabas is talking about an alliance or merger with Atlantic Health, and Del Mauro says he’ll consider taking over University Hospital. He hires talented people and “knows how to get them to do big things.”

35) John Lawrence
The New Jersey president for Aetna, one of the state’s biggest health insurers, Lawrence is among a handful of policy insiders shaping the implementation of federal health care reform. He will help design the new exchange marketplace allowing businesses and individuals to find affordable coverage.

36) Debbie Hart
The BioNJ president brings an incurable optimism to her work as an advocate for policies to spur investment in an industry that creates jobs, expands the economy and offers hope for new treatments. Her efforts continue to attract attention from foreign firms eager to plant their flags in the nation’s medicine chest.

37) Elizabeth Gilbertson
As a leader of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union, in Atlantic City, Gilbertson is at the forefront of efforts to create models of care that improve the health of her union’s members, while reining in the escalating costs associated with such care.

38) William Hait
He founded the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and put it on the map as a national cancer center. Now, he’s Johnson & Johnson’s global therapeutic chief for oncology, and is “influential in New Jersey, across the country and globally. A bright, articulate scientist and physician … (who) can talk to people at all levels.”

39) Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
The CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the nation’s largest, is more likely to be found in policy circles in Washington, D.C., than in Trenton — but New Jersey occupies a special space in the RWJF universe, as it’s supporting a major initiative to reverse the state’s nursing drain.

40) Loretta Weinberg
The chair of the Senate health committee is known for her commitment to the poor, elderly and vulnerable, railing against budget cuts that slash health care access for those dependent on government help. Weinberg is “not as much in the know as Vitale, but very well-informed,” one insider said.

41) Christine Stearns
A Trenton player who knows health care issues inside out, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association vice president is a regular at legislative hearings where the intricacies of health care policy are woven into bills that affect coverage costs. She’s “made the NJBIA the leader on health care issues that impact business.”

42) Mary Ann Christopher
The CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey is a leader in the effort to improve primary care here. In her work with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s nursing initiative, she’s recruiting more nursing school faculty to train a new cadre of nurses to work in the state.

43) Katherine Grant-Davis
Grant-Davis “takes no prisoners, and just pushes people aside and gets things done” as CEO of the New Jersey Primary Care Association. Its members are the federally qualified health centers that care for the poor.

44) Herb Conaway Jr.
The strong-willed, powerful chair of the Assembly health committee is both a medical doctor and a lawyer, and serves as a key voice in the Legislature for physicians frustrated by insurance industry bureaucracy — and patients worried about the high cost and uneven access to medical care.

45) Niranjan “Bunky” Rao
The incoming president of the Medical Society of New Jersey will advocate for physicians at a time when reform demands a system delivering more medical care for less money. Rao will be among those seeking solutions to New Jersey’s tough health care economy, which motivates our medical school graduates to practice elsewhere.

46) Judith M. Persichilli
A nurse who worked her way up to CEO of Catholic Health East, Persichilli looks at the health care bureaucracy with a clinician’s lens. Committed to serving the poor in New Jersey cities, Persichilli operates at the vanguard of figuring out how to create a sustainable urban system that improves public health.

47) Mary Ann Boccolini
Samaritan Hospice’s CEO is among the leaders of the growing hospice movement. New Jersey ranks among the highest-spending states on hospital care of the terminally ill; Boccolini is a leading advocate for patient- and family-centered alternatives.

48) Dean J. Paranicas
The BD vice president is respected for his work at his company. New to the driver’s seat for influential HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, Paranicas still has to distinguish himself from his esteemed predecessor, Bob Franks.

49) Yitzchock Halberstam
The Lakewood rabbi and Hasidic leader is “often seen in the halls of Trenton lobbying for better health care for the poor.”  He won approval to start a federally qualified health center in Lakewood, is well connected politically, and uses his influence to fight for better health care for mothers and children.

50) U.S. Supreme Court
Millions of dollars have been spent in New Jersey and across the country, and thousands of people are working to implement the health reform law Congress passed a year ago — and it may all be erased if these nine men and women rule it’s unconstitutional to force people to buy insurance.

How we did it

The list was compiled and ranked by the editors of NJBIZ after discussions with more than a dozen leaders in the New Jersey health care field. If you have feedback on this subjective list, direct it to Sharon Waters, editor, at swaters@njbiz.com or (732) 246-5702.

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