Three Highmark execs join Penn State Health board

From left to right: Highmark President Deborah Rice-Johnson, CFO Karen Hanlon, and chief legal officer Thomas VanKirk.

Three executives at Highmark Inc. are joining the board of Penn State Health, the Central Pennsylvania-based health network said Tuesday.

Highmark President Deborah Rice-Johnson, CFO Karen Hanlon and Chief Legal Officer Thomas VanKirk will all join the board of directors for Penn State Health, the parent of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Derry Township. The appointments increase the size of the board from 10 to 13 members.

Rice-Johnson first joined Highmark in 1983 and began serving as president in 2005. Rice-Johnson frequently serves as the public face of the company, making frequent appearances in press releases and and at public events hosted by Highmark.

For example, she was a key speaker at Highmark’s rollout of new initiatives to prevent opioid addiction and overdoses, including proposed limits on prescriptions the company will cover and the growth of a prescription monitoring program the company first tried in West Virginia.

Hanlon, who is also treasurer for Highmark, first joined the company in 1997. A certified public accountant, she was promoted to senior vice president of financial planning and analysis for the insurance carrier before being appointed CFO in 2014.

Before joining Highmark as chief legal officer, VanKirk served until 2009 as CEO of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, a law firm in downtown Harrisburg. As the chief executive in charge of Highmark’s legal affairs, VanKirk oversaw multiple legal disputes for the company.

Alongside the contentious battle with UPMC, Highmark also filed a 2016 lawsuit against the federal government over claims the government did not properly reimburse Highmark as part of its plan to help carriers who lost money on plans sold under the Affordable Care Act in the program’s first three years.

The three Highmark executives join the board of Penn State Health less than a week after another Highmark executive – Chief Medical Officer Tony Farah – joined the board of the Hershey Medical Center, the flagship hospital of Penn State Health.

In that announcement and in this week’s announcement, Penn State Health tied the appointments to the high-profile partnership formed between the provider and Highmark in December. The companies have publicly pledged $1 billion to “toward the development of a high-value, community based health care network designed to keep care local and enhance collaboration with community physicians,” according to the company’s statement.

The appointments to the Penn State Health board also follow approval by the medical center board of final expansion plans of Children’s Hospital on the center’s Derry Township campus. The expansion will add three additional floors to the five-story building, as well as provide space for services formerly housed at the medical center. The move will make room for 100 more beds at the medical center to help reduce overcrowding.

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