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Lynne Likes a Challenge - In Her Career, in Her Life

September 02, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008 Lynne likes a challenge — in her career, in her life Denver Business Journal - by Bob Mook Kathleen Lavine | Business Journal Donna Lynne has climbed to the top of Uhuru Peak, the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. Donna Lynne, president and CEO of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in Colorado, has scaled the peaks of health care — and of the world. Lynne, 54, heads a health system that provides health coverage and medical services to more than 483,000 members in the six-county Denver area and Colorado Springs. Prior to joining Kaiser in 2005, she was the executive vice president and COO for a $2.5 billion managed care organization in New York. She spent 20 years in various positions in New York City government, including running health and benefit plans for 1 million workers in the Big Apple. But while she’s climbed great heights in her long career, the summit that might impress most people has nothing to do with hospitals or health plans. Lynne, an avid hiker, last year climbed to the top of Uhuru Peak, the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. “In spite of being a real serious athlete, I saw that as a real challenge,” Lynne said. To prepare for the adventure, Lynne spent last summer climbing 14ers in Colorado with her friend, Pam Hanes, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Initiative. The two agreed to embark on the trip while chatting on a hike. “I will say that Donna was the driving force,” said Hanes, 63. “Once we shook hands, I felt committed to being a woman of honor.” Hanes said the road to Kilimanjaro is “very emblematic of her personality, drive and enthusiasm.” “She really pushed the agenda,” Hanes said. “We could’ve easily backed out.” According to colleagues, Lynne applies the same level of enthusiasm to her career and to serving the community. “She establishes a strong connection with the people she works with,” said Jeff Selberg, president and CEO of Exempla Healthcare, which manages three Denver-area hospitals that have contracts with Kaiser. Recently, Lynne navigated what could have been a touchy situation when Kaiser announced it would expand access to medical services for members at two HealthOne hospitals — marking the first time in 38 years Kaiser added a preferred provider to its HMO network. The decision could’ve ruffled feathers with Exempla, but Selberg said Lynne was communicative about Kaiser’s plans long before the announcement was made. “She was very open and transparent about the fact that they wanted to open up their network and they needed more hospitals than what we could provide,” Selberg said, adding that Lynne is an “adept negotiator.” Recently, Lynne struck a $155 million agreement with the Colorado Division of Insurance designed to address the state insurance commissioner’s concerns about Kaiser’s increasing net worth not being allotted in the state. Executives for competing health insurers complained the deal gives Kaiser an unfair advantage in the marketplace rather than having any punitive effects against Kaiser. Lynne apparently developed a zeal for life at an early age, despite growing up in in what she described as an “Ozzie and Harriet” environment in New Jersey. A self-described “tomboy,” she played field hockey, tennis and basketball. But she didn’t qualify for college scholarships at the time because of her sex. “Watching women take a back seat inspired me to be the best at what I was doing,” she said. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a doctorate in public health from Columbia University. Lynne, who is divorced, is the mother of three grown daughters, who all live in New York. Prior to accepting her current job, Lynne said she held a stereotypical view of Denver. “I pictured lots of people in cowboy boots, but I was pleasantly surprised about the sophistication of downtown ... obviously, the outdoors are a big attraction,” she said. Not to mention the state has plenty of mountains to prepare her for the next big peak. Finalists Ruth Benton Title: CEO Company: New West Physicians Location: Golden Phone: 303-763-4900 Website: www.nwphysicians.com In 1994, Ruth Benton and several physicians founded New West Physicians, a medical management company and Colorado’s largest primary care group practice. It serves more than 250,000 patients at 13 Denver-area offices. Benton has more than 30 years of experience. She is leading an effort to implement electronic medical records at New West Physicians. Pam Pressel Title: CEO Company: Capabilities Location: Westminster Phone: 720-214-0339 Website: www.capabilities.com Pam Pressel and Kathryn Arbour founded Capabilities in 2004. Pressel has 30 years of experience in health and home care services. Capabilities is a retail provider that offers products and services designed to facilitate independence for customers. Pressel ensures that a percentage of sales goes to nonprofit organizations. All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. 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