Karen Ignagni, 61, the longtime head of America's Health Insurance Plans, is leaving the industry's powerful lobbying group to become president and CEO of EmblemHealth, a financially troubled insurer based in New York.
She will replace Frank Branchini, effective Sept. 1. Branchini has been with EmblemHealth and its predecessor companies for 30 years.
Ipsita Smolinski, managing director of Washington-based healthcare consulting firm Capitol Street, said Ignagni's departure from AHIP was “a shock” to the health policy community in Washington.
Dan Durham, AHIP's executive vice president, will serve as the group's interim CEO. Speculation has swirled that a former member of Congress could take Ignagni's place.
Ignagni, who made $2.03 million in 2013, is the third major trade association CEO to announce plans to leave this year. American Hospital Association CEO Richard Umbdenstock is retiring at the end of 2015, with Rick Pollack taking his place. John Castellani, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also is retiring.
During Ignagni's 22-year tenure at AHIP, a group of more than 200 health insurance companies, she became one of the most influential lobbyists in the country and has been synonymous with the often-controversial health insurance industry.
Ignagni and AHIP played a pivotal though ambiguous role in the political negotiations leading to the Affordable Care Act, publicly supporting the legislation while funding the opposition behind the scenes.