Home > PUM Women's History Salutes: Deborah Rice-Johnson-President, Highmark Health Plan, Highmark Inc.

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PUM Women's History Salutes: Deborah Rice-Johnson-President, Highmark Health Plan, Highmark Inc.

 

"Regardless of the setting, women have always had the unique ability to influence others in a positive way. It’s important that women keep that in mind as they navigate their career path. Highmark created a Women’s Network, which is one of six business resource groups at the company that encourage employees with shared interests to work inclusively and collaboratively with one another." Deborah Rice-Johnson 

Deborah Rice-Johnson is president of Highmark Health Plan for Highmark Inc.

In this role, Ms. Rice-Johnson is responsible for providing senior leadership and strategic direction for Highmark’s core health insurance business, serving 5.2 million customers and managing more than $15 billion in revenue. Additionally, she has responsibility for product management and development, provider and clinical services, sales, marketing and strategic planning.

Ms. Rice-Johnson has more than 25 years of experience in the health insurance industry. She has held a variety of management positions at Highmark and its predecessor company in strategic development, operations, information technology and customer service.

In addition to her position at Highmark, Ms. Rice-Johnson serves on the board of the American Association of People with Disabilities as well as the National Institute for Healthcare Management. She is also very active in the community, serving as board president for Variety The Children’s Charity and as a board member on Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, United Way of Allegheny County and the Epilepsy Foundation.  Ms. Rice-Johnson was a prior board member on Leadership Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Ms. Rice-Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Carlow University.

PUM One on One with Deborah Rice-Johnson-President, Highmark Health Plan, Highmark Inc.

 

PUM: Celebrating Women's History Month, what does that mean for you in terms of what you have been able to accomplish in your career?

Ms. Rice-Johnson: Women’s History Month is very important because it gives us the opportunity to highlight the meaningful contributions women have made and continue to make. Recent statistics have found that women make 90 percent of health care decisions, so working in an industry where women play a critical role in their personal health and their family’s health makes me enjoy what I do that much more. 

Throughout Highmark’s history, we’ve grown from a regional health insurer to a nationally diversified health and wellness company. It’s very humbling to have recently been involved with the continued transformation of our company, especially the creation of Allegheny Health Network (AHN).

Western Pennsylvanians need choice when it comes to health care, and AHN helps preserve this for all consumers across our region. At Highmark, our goal is to work collaboratively to transform health care by improving the quality of care and making it more affordable. AHN emphasizes patient care at more convenient community-based outpatient and ambulatory settings as well as a focus on community hospitals. As health care continues to evolve over time, Highmark welcomes the opportunity to serve as a leader in this transformation.

PUM: As one of the top executives in your company, you’re one of the first women to lead Highmark’s core health insurance business, which represents three-quarters of the company’s revenue. Tell us more about your role in the company and how you’ve been able to accomplish your goals as a leader.

Ms. Rice-Johnson: In my current role as president of Highmark Health Plan, one of my key responsibilities is to provide strategic direction for our core health insurance business. The health care environment is currently immersed in unprecedented change driven by health care reform, rising costs, industry consolidation and the need to improve health care quality and patient safety. We are making the necessary changes to ensure we continue to be a competitive company despite the ever-changing marketplace.

At Highmark, we’ve been guided by one overarching vision: providing all members of the community with access to affordable, quality health care. I’m working with my team and other business partners to ensure we are preserving health care choice and competition while delivering a better experience to patients and improving the quality, efficiency and administration of care delivery.

PUM: What is your advice and recommendations to women as they break through the glass ceilings in their careers? How were you able to persevere?

Ms. Rice-Johnson: Regardless of the setting, women have always had the unique ability to influence others in a positive way. It’s important that women keep that in mind as they navigate their career path. Highmark created a Women’s Network, which is one of six business resource groups at the company that encourage employees with shared interests to work inclusively and collaboratively with one another.

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to serve as the executive sponsor of the Women’s Network and was able to work with a group of women who were eager to enhance their professional growth, among other things. It was an inspiring experience, and I can’t say enough how important it is for women to be engaged in these types of opportunities. Being involved and willing to learn is what helped me throughout my career, so I would encourage others to do the same.

PUM: Balancing career and home life, what has worked for you on your path to success?

Ms. Rice-Johnson: My role as a mother is very important to me. Throughout the years, my daughter and I have been able to find a nice balance given our busy lives. Between work, school and extracurricular activities, we are always on the go, but we make sure to put in the effort to make time for one another. Even just doing simple things like asking one another how our days were has really helped to strengthen our bond, making us stronger as a family. 

PUM: What are you most proud of as a woman who inspires other women every day?

Ms. Rice-Johnson: In addition to what I’ve accomplished throughout my career, my involvement with the community is incredibly important to me, too. I’ve had the great pleasure of serving on the boards of a variety of nonprofit organizations throughout Pittsburgh, and I believe it’s played a critical role in making me the woman I am today. Working for a company that’s committed to creating stronger, healthier communities has inspired me to be engaged in and support efforts that help do just that.

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