When Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan announced the April hiring of Joe Mullany to the new post of president, he said the primary reason was Mullany had managed hospitals in Massachusetts under that state's version of healthcare reform, championed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and the predecessor of the national healthcare law championed by the man who beat Romney in the presidential election last week.
Two days after that election, Duggan announced he would step aside after nine years to pave the way for an expected run for mayor of Detroit. Stepping in to head the DMC, as was widely expected, is Mullany, who now can apply his experience with "Romneycare" to the era of "Obamacare."
Mullany, 48, has 20 years' experience working at for-profit hospitals, seven of those with Nashville-based Vanguard Health Systems Inc., DMC's parent.
"I am excited about it," Mullany said. "DMC has a lot going on. I have been here seven months and have a flavor of what to do. We will be more aggressive on the ambulatory side."
Mullany said he knew he was hired to take over for Duggan but didn't know Duggan was considering a mayoral run.
"I didn't know the date" Duggan would resign, Mullany said. "When I took the job, I knew it was a transition to this role."
Duggan said his mayoral exploratory committee is proceeding "very well," but he wouldn't comment on whether he is leaning toward announcing.
"My first concern is that DMC has a smooth transition with 14,000 people working for the DMC," Duggan said. "We are in strong shape with Obamacare and Joe as CEO. I wouldn't be doing this if everything wasn't in place."
At the time he hired Mullany, Duggan said a knowledge of managing hospitals in Massachusetts under 2006's Romneycare—predecessor to Obamacare, formally called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010—was the primary reason Mullany was hired.
For the past eight months, Mullany has overseen operations of the DMC's eight hospitals and worked to refine the system's suburban ambulatory care center strategy, a key component under healthcare reform and as a referral feeder to the DMC's downtown hospitals.
Duggan said he was comfortable with Mullany right from the beginning.
"Joe and I have a very close working relationship," he said. "It was important (to announce the resignation now) because we have a huge operation of eight hospitals, and he has to get up to speed on everything I do."
Duggan has spent more of his time this year spearheading the DMC's physician integration strategy, which includes its Michigan Pioneer Accountable Care Organization, and the purchase of ProCare Health Plan, a Medicaid health maintenance organization. He also has been advocating that Michigan expand Medicaid eligibility under healthcare reform.
Mullany said that over the next two months, he slowly will assume more of Duggan's CEO responsibilities.
"We are known as a healthcare system that is most appealing and friendly to private physicians," he said. "Our goal is to make their way of life easy for the delivery of care. We see physicians as important, and this distinguishes ourselves from others in the market."
The DMC employs 110 physicians and has about 3,000 on its medical staffs and 1,120 in its physician-hospital organization.
Mullany likened Detroit's fragmented market with that of Boston, where Partner Healthcare has a 30 percent market share and is the dominant provider. That health system includes Massachusetts General Hospital.
Two weeks ago, Beaumont Health System and Henry Ford Health System signed a letter of intent to merge, pending negotiations over the next four months. The two systems with 10 hospitals and 3,700 beds would control nearly 40 percent of the inpatient hospital market in Southeast Michigan.
"Everybody is still thinking about this," Mullany said. "When DMC did the merger with Vanguard, we knew why people do consolidation: efficiency and capital."
The Beaumont-Henry Ford merger "will not deter us in any way from our strategy and our future," he said.
Over the next couple of years, Mullany said, Vanguard looks to expand in Southeast Michigan. However, he said, Nashville executives handle acquisition decisions.
Mullany, who was born in Great Barrington, Mass., and now lives in Bloomfield Hills, has an MBA from Wake Forest University and has an MBA and a master of health science from the University of Florida.