Ten influential local health care CEOs have formed a council through which they hope to lure talent, speak with a unified voice — and leverage their clout and capabilities to turn Louisville into a Medicare Mecca.
Through the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, the executives — including Humana’s Bruce Broussard, Kindred Healthcare’s Benjamin Breier and Hosparus Health’s Phil Marshall — want to make Louisville known nationally or even globally for aging-care innovation, much like the San Francisco Bay Area is known as Silicon Valley for its cluster of high-tech companies.
The CEOs also envision the organization as way for the local health care industry to influence legislation and, most of all, to ease workforce constraints.
“The real idea was how we bring more … young professionals here to Louisville to work in the kinds of organizations that we have and the kinds of jobs that we have,” Breier said recently at the annual meeting of Greater Louisville Inc.
Many local health care employers are struggling to find the best employees, he said, and many companies poach them from competitors.
The community has to figure out how to bring more talent to Louisville, Breier said.
A possible solution: A Shark Tank-type business pitch competition, at which an entrepreneur could be invited to present her idea to 10 of the most influential health care leaders in the country.
Rick Remmers, a vice president with Humana and co-founder of the health council, said that about a year ago, local CEOs got together because they felt that Louisville, by placing greater emphasis on leveraging its health care expertise, could better compete for talent with some of its competitors.
The group convened five times last year, and, Remmers said, with the help of a consultant determined that Louisville should promote itself as having the nation’s greatest concentration of senior-focused health care businesses.
The meetings also served to exercise the CEOs’ cooperative muscles.
“What’s really important is what happens between the meetings,” Remmers said.
Executives wake up and think about their businesses first, but now they’re thinking about how they can help their community grow as well, he said. And while the council’s members have some interesting ideas about how to attract entrepreneurs and businesses, not every effort will involve or serve every company — but it likely will help broaden the area’s overall aging health care “ecosystem.”
Places become known for things because of a favorable culture and environment, an ecosystem that’s attractive for entrepreneurs, suppliers and established businesses, Remmers said.
“We believe that Louisville has a real story to tell around this aging marketplace,” he said. “We’ve got a heck of a head start on a lot of communities.”
As a 501 c (4) nonprofit, the council can engage in lobbying, but Remmers said that’s not the executive’s primary interest.
Tammy York Day, whom the council recently hired as CEO, said that especially early on, she won’t be spending much time in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
She said that the council in the coming months will have public announcements about its efforts. At a board meeting set for Feb. 6, members will lay out their strategy and determine the metrics by which they will measure the council’s performance.
York Day said she was drawn to the position in part because of the levels of expertise and engagement of the CEOs.
“This is something that can be a game-changer in this industry,” she said.
Gwen Cooper, senior vice president and chief external affairs officer of Hosparus Health, said the CEOS might identify projects through which they can work together to battle specific conditions, such as congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.
In the end, all of the partners are working to tackle challenges related to the same population: The current Medicare recipients and the roughly 10,000 baby boomers who are becoming eligible for Medicare every day.
Cooper said that the time the CEOs spend together also can identify opportunities for partnerships, such as Humana’s recently announced planned acquisition of Kindred Healthcare’s home health and hospice unit. Hosparus is looking at investing in the site of the new headquarters of Passport Health, the CEO of which also is a member of the council.
Remmers said that lessons the executives have learned from their time on the council include that it’s difficult to get together with an agreed-upon vision, especially in a fragmented industry, and that, while success will take time, it must include collaboration.
“It can’t just be about your company all the time. That’s not how it’s going to work,” he said.
The CEOs have committed to support the effort — including financially — for multiple years.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm,” Remmers said.
CLARIFICATION: This post was updated to provide more details on the proposed Humana-Kindred deal.