Matt Eyles, the new president of AHIP Matt Eyles (Photo: AHIP)

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group for health insurers, has picked Matt Eyles, its chief operating officer, to succeed Marilyn Tavenner as president.

Tavenner, who has strong ties to top Democrats in Washington, is retiring June 1.

Eyles has a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University and a master’s degree from the University of Rochester. He started out in Washington as an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan research office. He later worked as a lobbyist a large drug manufacturer, Wyeth.

(Related: Top AHIP Officials Departing)

Over the years, most of Eyles’ political contributions have been to the Wyeth political action committee (PAC), when he worked for Wyeth, and later for AHIP’s PAC, after he went to work for AHIP. During the 2015-2016 campaign cycle, he donated $500 each to the Senate campaigns of Tim Scott, a Republican candidate for Senate in South Carolina, and Pat Toomey, a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, according to Federal Election Commission records.

AHIP says in an announcement of the change that it expects to see Eyles “continue to lead the vision and mission established under Tavenner’s leadership.”

Bernard Tyson, who is the chairman of AHIP, and of Kaiser Permanente, gave Tavenner warm praise.

“Marilyn’s track record of service and success is a model for every leader,” Tyson said. “She has delivered real results for AHIP and our industry in a time of extraordinary change and uncertainty.”

The 2016 Elections

Tavenner is a nurse who ran hospitals in Virginia for Hospital Corporation of America. She was the Virginia state health and human services secretary under Tim Kaine, a Democrat who now represents Virginia in the Senate. From 2011 through 2015, she ran the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services (CMS) under former President Barack Obama.

At CMS, Tavenner oversaw the birth of major Affordable Care Act regulations and programs.

AHIP hired Tavenner to succeed Karen Ignagni as AHIP’s president in July 2015, at a time when a top priority was working with the Obama administration to improve the ACA public exchange system and ACA public exchange program subsidies.

Sixteen months later, Donald Trump became president.

Since then, AHIP has been trying to persuade the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress make the ACA subsidy program payments promised by the Obama administration, and to shore up the ACA programs or organize an orderly transition to post-ACA programs.

AHIP

The American Association of Health Plans, a group for managed care companies, and the Health Insurance Association of America, a group for health insurance companies, merged to form AHIP in 2003.

HIAA was best known for organizing the “Thelma & Louise” advertising campaign that defeated the Clinton administration’s health system change proposal in the early 1990s.

AAHP and its longtime leader, Ignagni, tried to ward off government interference by mounting their own large-scale efforts to improve the quality of health care and lower the cost.

AHIP itself suggested that the government might be able to increase the efficiency of the health insurance market, without shutting out private companies, by setting up health insurance purchasing organizations that, in some ways, resemble the current ACA public exchange system.

Some of AHIP’s largest members have left the organization in recent years.

UnitedHealthGroup Inc. left AHIP in 2015, shortly before Tavenner came aboard.

Aetna Inc. left in January 2016, and CareFirst and Humana Inc. dropped out earlier this year.

AHIP serves insurers in markets for health-related products other than major medical insurance, such as disability insurance and long-term care insurance, as well as carriers in the major medical market.

AHIP’s currrent board includes executives from companies such as Aflac Inc., American Fidelity Assurance Company, Anthem Inc. Centene Corp., Cigna Corp., Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Health Care Service Corp., HealthPartners, Highmark, Trustmark Companies, Tufts Health Plan, and a number of nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

— Read Ignagni Rips State Regulations Failingson ThinkAdvisor.

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