AHIP names new CEO as Tavenner announces retirement
(Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET)
The insurance industry's dominant lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans is swapping Marilyn Tavenner with its chief operating officer, Matt Eyles, as its next president and CEO, effective June 1.
Tavenner, the former head of the CMS, is retiring after three years leading AHIP during a time of tremendous uncertainty for the insurance industry. The trade group's board on Tuesday unanimously voted to appoint Eyles to the top spot after a search and succession planning process, it said Wednesday.
"Matt is one of the most experienced leaders in Washington," Tavenner said in a statement. "We have partnered together on real solutions that allow health insurance providers to better serve the millions of Americans they work for every day. We worked closely with the board to plan an effective transition to ensure that under Matt's leadership, AHIP will continue to be the industry leader for years to come."
The shake-up comes as AHIP struggles to hold on to some of its largest members. Insurer Humana ditched AHIP just before the start of 2018, following in the footsteps of Aetna, which exited in 2016, and UnitedHealth Group in 2015. In the wake of those big-name losses, some have questioned the strength of AHIP's political influence.
Tavenner took over in 2015 from Karen Ignagni, who stepped down as AHIP's CEO after 22 years with the organization to lead New York-based plan EmblemHealth. Tavenner came to the lobbying group just six months after ending her tenure as CMS administrator.
As AHIP CEO, she was tasked with the difficult job of advocating for a wide range of insurers' interests as a new Republican-led administration and Congress worked to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Afraid to make waves, insurance CEOs looked to her voice their concerns about ACA repeal.
"Marilyn Tavenner's legacy is she helped prevent the repeal of the ACA. That in and of itself was a huge accomplishment," said Dr. Mario Molina, former CEO of health plan Molina Healthcare.
Industry sources say Eyles is a great pick to lead the trade group. He joined AHIP in 2015 and became COO last year, heading up AHIP's policy work. Before AHIP, Eyles worked for D.C.-based consultant firm Avalere Health, where he was executive vice president. Prior to that, he led public policy efforts and government affairs at Coventry Health Care, which is now part of Aetna. He has also served with drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co.
"He's smart and he's got a clear grasp of the issues, there's no doubt about it," said Bill Pierce, an HHS official in the George W. Bush administration who's now a senior director at consultancy APCO Worldwide.
Eyles has a tough gig ahead of him managing the varying priorities of its members, which span the gamut from major for-profit health plans to small, not-for-profit insurers. Forming a unified agenda is no easy task.
"It's a complex, big membership that has different issues for different reasons. It's a challenging job to manage that much," Pierce said, noting that it especially won't be easy "because we have so much turmoil in the healthcare world … That is a challenging time to take on this job."
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.