5 insurance executives to watch in 2020 

Here's a few payer executives we're watching in 2020. (sirtravelalot/Shutterstock)

As healthcare continues to evolve, so too are the leaders making a stamp on the industry. 

In the insurance sector, this means that some of the most influential people are those working to modernize technology and engage with members on using these platforms.  

Other leaders whose impacts will be critical in the coming year are those working on Capitol Hill on policy—and as the 2020 election kicks into high gear, hot-button issues like “Medicare for All” aren’t going away. 


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Here are a few payer execs we’re keeping an eye on in 2020.

A headshot of Greg Adams
Greg Adams (Kaiser Permanente)

Greg Adams, CEO of Kaiser Permanente 

Greg Adams has been tapped to serve as CEO of Kaiser Permanente following the sudden passing of industry titan Bernard Tyson in November.

That puts him at the helm of a massive integrated health system that sets the tone for the industry. 

Adams brings more than 30 years of healthcare executive experience and a decade at Kaiser Permanente specifically to the table.

One of the critical issues for Tyson, especially in recent years, has been tackling the social determinants of health, so how Adams takes up that mantle will be something to watch this year. 

Andrew Witty, CEO of Optum and group president at UnitedHealth Group 

Andrew Witty, a former pharmaceutical industry executive, was named CEO of Optum in 2018 and in November was elevated to a role as group president in the parent company UnitedHealth Group. 

Witty’s growth in the company mirrors Optum’s growth within UHG as well, as the diverse subsidiary—which counts a pharmacy benefit manager, provider services a bank for health savings accounts among its business units—has been a significant financial boon over the past several quarters. Look for Optum’s growth to continue this year—UnitedHealth Group is banking on it, too

RELATED: CVS plans to turn 1,500 stores into HealthHUBs 

Firdaus Bhathena, chief digital officer at CVS Health 

It’s no secret that healthcare is marching ahead on digital health, with giants in the industry like CVS Health leading the way. Firdaus Bhathena, as the company’s chief digital officer, is responsible for spearheading that work. 

Now that CVS owns Aetna and has its fingers in a diverse array of business segments, Bhathena said the challenge is harnessing the strengths of both companies to continue innovating with technology. How the company does this, especially as it moves ahead with the transformation of hundreds of stores into HealthHUBs, will be something to follow. 

Jennifer Vachon
Jennifer Vachon (BCBSA)

Jennifer Vachon, executive vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association 

As executive vice president at BCBSA, Jennifer Vachon oversees a Washington, D.C.-based team that works closely with politicians, policymakers and influencers to educate them and shape policy ideas on behalf of the 36-strong Blues plan coalition. 

That work is emblematic of what plenty of payer groups will be focused on this year as the presidential election looms in November. With “Medicare for All” still on the table, expect plenty of focus on lobbying and work on the Hill. 


Traci Thompson Ferguson, chief medical director of medical management and external relationships at WellCare 

At WellCare Health Plans, Traci Thompson Ferguson oversees the implementation and adherence to new medical policies for the insurers’ government plan members. She’s also critically involved in the insurer’s work on the social determinants of health. 

That focus is a critical one, especially for Medicare Advantage plans that are looking to take advantage of new opportunities for supplemental and alternative benefits that target social health factors. It’s why Thompson Ferguson made our list of Women of Influence in healthcare this year. 

Think we missed someone? Find Paige Minemyer on Twitter at @pminemyer