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Karen Ignagni to lead EmblemHealth

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Karen Ignagni, the longtime president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), U.S. health insurers’ lead trade group, is resigning to become the president of EmblemHealth, a nonprofit health plan based in New York City, AHIP says.

AHIP is naming Daniel Durham, the group’s executive vice president for strategic initiatives, to be interim chief executive officer. The board says it’s conducting a national search for a new permanent CEO.

Ignagni worked as an aide in Congress and as the director of the employee benefits department at the AFL-CIO before becoming the leader of the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), a managed care plan group, in 1993.

Ignagni warned managed care company executives at the AAHP meeting in New Orleans in 1996 that they were about to face a regulatory backlash, and that they had to manage change by offering their own health system change proposals. 

Ignagni helped bring about the merger of the AAHP with the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), an insurance company trade group, in 2003.

In 2007, Ignagni unveiled an AHIP health finance reform proposal that included early forms of some of the provisions eventually included in what became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).

In the past two years, AHIP has been battling with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug makers’ top trade group, over what the country should do about the rising cost of prescription drugs, and especially about the high cost of new, brand-name “specialty drugs,” which can cost patients and their insurers more than $50,000 per year.

See also: Drugmakers turn up heat on insurers

Durham, the new AHIP acting CEO, may have extra insight into PhRMA’s arguments: From April 2005 through November 2010, before he began working as executive vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at AHIP, he was vice president for policy at PhRMA.

Durham has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University. He started out in public service as a policy analyst in the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

From 1987 to 1989, Durham was a policy analyst in the executive office of the president at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). From 1990 to 1998, he was a health legislative affairs specialist at AARP.

From 2001 to 2005, he was deputy assistant secretary for health policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).