PROVIDENCE — After a nation-wide search, Rhode Island’s largest health insurer announced Tuesday that it would have a new chief executive within the next few weeks.
Martha L. Wofford, group vice president of DaVita, Inc. in Denver, Colo., will become Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s president and CEO in mid-April. Wofford will be the eighth president of the company, and only the second woman to fill the top role in the insurer’s 82-year history.
Wofford will succeed Kim Keck, who is now president and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Michele Lederberg, who has served as BCBSRI’s interim president and CEO since Keck’s departure last year, will return to her previous role of executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and chief legal officer.
A seasoned health care executive, Wofford has been with DaVita since 2014, where she supported the company’s shift to value-based care and took full financial and clinical accountability for kidney patients. She led the company’s value-based care programs with commercial payers and health systems, and oversaw patient experience and education programs at the company’s 2,800 dialysis clinics nationwide.
She currently serves as executive director of the Aspen Group, which is a nonpartisan group of health care leaders who look to develop and promote solutions that advance the health and health care of all Americans. She also serves on the Kellogg Alumni Council, and on the Denver Scholarship Foundation board of directors, which provides financial support to Denver’s public school students to enroll in and graduate from post-secondary institutions.
John Langenus, BCBSRI board chair, said in a statement Tuesday that the board is confident that the company’s long-term strategy will flourish under her leadership.
Wofford “comes to Blue Cross with strong industry experience in both payer and provider settings. That versatility, along with her proven strategic acumen made her a standout choice,” said Langenus.
Gail Carvelli, a spokeswoman for BCBSRI, told the Globe that each board member who was part of the search committee voted on Wofford’s selection.
While Wofford accepted the role several weeks ago, she will join the non-profit health plan at an interesting time: during a global pandemic and while BCBSRI is receiving blowback from last week’s decision to end its no-cost coverage of treatment for COVID-19 while the pandemic is ongoing. On Monday, after conversations with Governor Dan McKee and the state’s Health Insurance Commissioner Patrick Tigue, the company announced that it would reverse course and continue its no-cost coverage of treatment for COVID-19 through the end of the state of emergency.
“Given our position as the state’s largest insurer, we have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to address key longstanding issues like health equity that have been starkly highlighted during the past year,” said Wofford in a statement Tuesday.
Carvelli said that Wofford was attracted to BCBSRI’s vision to “passionately lead a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island and she is excited about the company’s initiatives to address health inequities.” Some of these efforts include the Rhode Island Life Index, which is a survey the company put together to gather Rhode Islanders’ perceptions of social determinants of health and well-being as an initial step to inform community investments and philanthropy.
Prior to joining DaVita, Wofford worked at Aetna, starting in 2005, for nearly a decade, and helped start up the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plan business. She was responsible for Aetna’s national direct-to-consumer sales capability, and served as the general manager for the Northeast Region for Aetna’s Medicare and consumer segment. She was previously a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, an information technology consulting firm, from 2000 to 2005, where she focused on growth in health care and media industries. She served under President Bill Clinton’s administration for more than six years in communication and legislative positions in The White House, the US Agency for International Development, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
“I can’t wait to work with Blue Cross’ board and leadership, as well as providers, and business and community leaders to realize our vision of passionately leading a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island, for all Rhode Islanders,” said Wofford.