What it Means to Be a Nonprofit Health Plan: A CFO’s Perspective

What I’ve learned in my seven months at EmblemHealth is that we take our nonprofit status seriously, in part because it underscores a tradition more than 80 years in the making: an unapologetically patient-centered approach to health care delivery.

Before I joined EmblemHealth as Chief Financial Officer, I had never worked for a nonprofit. I’ve spent most of my career working at for-profit Fortune 500 companies. If you drill down on the key objectives, non-profits are actually a lot like for-profit companies. Just like a for-profit company, the goal of the CFO is to make a profit. Generating revenue is at the heart of being a financially sustainable company and allows us to continue our mission of bringing quality, affordable health care to New Yorkers.

The major difference is that — unlike a for-profit company — our profits are not distributed to shareholders. Instead, all of our profits go back to our members and the communities we serve. The members are the shareholders at EmblemHealth, and they are the direct recipients of our reinvestment of profits.

A key part of my job is to help determine where to best spend our money: choosing investments that will produce the best outcomes for our members. This member-focused mentality sets the high standard for all of our investments, allowing us to approach care delivery with an eye to what can dramatically improve their experience. As you would expect, there are many investment options — technology, people, and facilities, to name a few. At EmblemHealth, we let facts and data drive our decisions as much as possible — a disciplined approach that ensures we get the most out of each dollar we spend.

As you may have noticed, we have made some investment decisions recently. One example was reimagining our City of New York HMO plan this past year. We feel it is important to improve our members’ experience, so we created a new Gold Line that lets them get directly to a dedicated service representative to help them navigate the health care system. As part of this plan, we also launched a new Centers of Excellence program with Hospital for Special Surgery and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, providing City workers with access to world-class care. On a larger scale, we’re working with our partners at AdvantageCare Physicians to transform their 36 medical offices into efficient, team-driven, state-of-the-art facilities to ensure our members receive high-quality care. We’ll be sharing more in the coming months on this transformation.

In my view, there are a number of advantages to being a nonprofit health plan. In all the jobs I’ve had before, I’ve never felt more connected to my shareholders, which in our case are our members. For this reason, I have found my work deeply rewarding on both a personal and professional level. Being a nonprofit health plan means that we get to do things a little differently, and the outcome is a better health experience for millions of New Yorkers and their families. Together, we are committed to building a healthier New York City — person by person, family by family, and neighborhood by neighborhood.

Bruce Jarvie is the Chief Financial Officer of EmblemHealth.