When Georganne Chapin spent a summer in Bolivia working as an anthropologist during the 1970s, she found that the problems of poverty were compounded by poor health. When she returned to the United States and saw the same dynamic in marginalized populations, she decided to switch career gears and move into healthcare.
“Anthropology was too theoretical—I wanted to do something more practical and be involved in health issues,” Chapin says. “I was interested in the big picture of how healthcare works in this country. It is so complicated—we all need help navigating the system, not just poor or non-English-speaking people.”
So in 1989, she joined Hudson Health Plan as president and CEO, when it was managing the care of a few hundred members in Westchester. Since then, the organization has grown to more than 120,000 members in six counties in the Hudson Valley, making it the largest Medicaid plan in Westchester. What accounts for such astounding growth? Sadly, there is an inverse relationship between a bad economy and the growth of not-for-profit insurance companies like Hudson. “People have the sense that everyone in Westchester is wealthy, but all our members qualify on the basis of income, so our growth reflects the very low wages being paid in service industries,” she says.
While Hudson’s revenue was $500 million last year, Chapin is most proud of the company’s 350 employees—275 of whom work at the Tarrytown headquarters. “We would never be able to accomplish all we’ve done without my extraordinary staff to implement the programs,” she says. Those programs include initiatives and community outreach campaigns that have given hundreds of thousands of uninsured or underinsured people access to high-quality healthcare services.
For instance, Hudson was the first in the Medicaid-managed care industry to have a physician pay-for-performance incentive plan. “These plans are all the rage now,” Chapin says. Hudson was also the first in the County to have a diabetes patient registry, and its Westchester Cares Action Program, an award-winning integrated and coordinated care management program for Westchester’s highest users, is now the model for Medicaid Health Homes throughout New York State.
Of course, Chapin’s innovations have been popular with patients. In consumer surveys, Hudson has been rated number one in overall satisfaction among Medicaid Managed Care members in the Hudson Valley region since 2003, the first year the survey was conducted by the New York State Department of Health. Says Chapin: “I feel most privileged to be able to do meaningful work.”