Starting Up

Wow! – It has been a really long time since I have posted anything. Not really sure why I haven’t been active and blogging, but I kind of miss it. I’ll have to start blogging, at least somewhat more frequently.

It’s been a great month – family, friends, travel, weddings, work, etc. I’ve been to weddings in Milwaukee and rural Indiana. I’ve been with my family to Niagara Falls and Detroit. I have started working on a new health plan in New Hampshire. All of it has been great- and I am constantly amazed at how time flies by.

I am feeling good about life right now. I have some big plans. And a lot of ideas. I’ll try to start doing a better job of sharing my thoughts on here.

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Flying Home From Louisiana

I am sitting on the plane flying home from New Orleans for the last time (for work), listening to Valse de Opelousas and reflecting on the past 11 months. I haven’t done as good of a job of chronicling my time in Louisiana as I should have, but I can simply say that it has been a fantastic experience.

For the past eleven months, I have been traveling to Louisiana weekly (with very few exceptions) to build the provider network for a new Medicaid health plan, Louisiana Healthcare Connections (LHC), a subsidiary of Centene Corporation. When I started, there were five of us in Baton Rouge developing strategy and starting to do outreach for contracting. Now, LHC has 140 employees and provides health insurance to ~168,000 individuals in Louisiana generating estimated annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We were key players in essentially building a start-up into a major contributor to its Fortune 500 parent. I am very proud of the work we have done.

When I started this job eleven months ago, I essentially knew nothing about what I was to be doing. While I still have a lot to learn, I have helped train several people on contracting/network development and have been a point person for escalated issues. I appreciate all of the people who have taken time to train me, share with me, support me, and trust me. I am excited to keep growing in this position.

I have been to every corner of Louisiana and many places in between. I’ve seen some places that I would love to visit again – and some that I hope to never visit again. I’ve met some great people and have heard some very interesting stories. I’ve sampled local culture and cuisine. Louisiana is a great state with so much to offer, I highly recommend it to everyone. Just be sure to get off the beaten path and explore a little bit. You never know what you might find. That is certainly a lesson I am taking forward myself.

Importantly, I have worked with some amazing people and made some great new friends. These people really made my time in Louisiana enjoyable – and are making leaving Louisiana much harder than I had anticipated. I hope to visit soon.

I do not yet know what the next state is in which I will work. I should be finding out soon. Regardless of where it is, I am looking forward to applying the skills I have learned in a new market, continuing to learn and grow, and see what the future holds!


Update Upon Arrival in St. Louis:

I found out upon landing that I will be helping with our Missouri health plan, Home State Health Plan, for a few weeks. Likely working on provider data and accuracy/usability. After that I am on to the next plan. That is still up in the air.

Over the Past Year…

Wow, how fast a year goes! I have now been a college graduate (with two degrees: BA & MBA) for just over a year! How crazy. I can’t believe it has been a year. I miss college a great deal, but I think I have done a good job transitioning out of the DU mode, which as some of you know, I was quite worried about after having been so involved.

I moved back to St. Louis after graduation and spent a lot of time applying for jobs, interviewing, catching up with friends, and worrying about my future. The summer went by very quickly and I enjoyed my time off while looking forward to what was next. Then very quickly I ended up with three job offers around the same time. All were great opportunities – and it was a very difficult decision.

I ended up taking a position as a Contract Negotiator with Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 managed care company in St. Louis. I am part of the New Business Contracting & Network Development team. When Centene is exploring/wins a contract for a new health plan, we develop the outreach strategy and develop our network of health care providers. We negotiate contracts and provide training. As the plan goes live, the local health plan hires staff to do what we do and then the corporate team gets deployed to a new market. I am always learning new things and enjoy the challenges that come with working in healthcare and Medicaid, specifically. I have great coworkers and enjoy the support of my supervisors.

My position requires me to travel 4-5 days a week so I’ve become a frequent traveler and while that can be tiring and difficult at times, I really like it. I’ve been working in Louisiana since I’ve started and have explored the whole state, while getting to know Baton Rouge and New Orleans pretty well. Soon, I expect to be moving to a new state and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned to a new market and observe the similarities and differences that come with the territory.

Because of my frequent traveling, I have been able to take advantage of the perks and have been to Denver several times, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tampa/St. Petersburg, San Diego, and Los Angeles. I have a trip planned to Chicago and have plenty of other ideas.

Otherwise, I have enjoyed staying in touch with Denver friends, reconnecting with old friends, spending time with family, and meeting new people. I struggled with meeting new people for a little while as I was trying to figure out if I’d be staying in St. Louis and as I was starting the new job, but I’ve gained traction and have met some great new people. I’ve also been trying to figure out what all St. Louis actually has to offer and have been pleasantly surprised.

So, life is good. It’s been quite the year and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Job Description

I now think I’ve had enough experience on my job to write a job description that sums up what I am doing. My title is Contract Negotiator, but I use Network Development Specialist in the field.

The job description I am currently using is:

Responsible for building a Medicaid managed care health plan with estimated annual revenue of $367 million and anticipated membership of 215,000 by developing outreach strategies, building long-term relationships, and negotiating contracts for select categories of providers. Successfully managed projects related to corporate Network Development compliance activities to guarantee conformity with state requirements, creating policies and procedures, collaborating on key measures such as the company’s Network Development and Management Plan, and leading work with numerous internal departments. Created resources to assist in developing new markets and provider training.

Understanding Healthcare Reform

I have not posted anything on here in a long time – my bad. I’ve been surprised at how busy life seems to be. Time is flying by. I’ll try to be better about posting again.

Anyway, Stuart (my brother) shared a video about healthcare reform in the U.S. with me. He had to watch it for a public health class he is taking. It is easy to follow and actually helps makes sense of the complicated healthcare reform policy upon which, just today, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments.

This is definitely something people should understand before deciding that they are for or against it. It is also relevant to the work I am doing professionally.

Highlights of the Week

Well, I’m continuing my tradition of writing a weekly blog post on the plane.  It has been a great week.  There is too much to say and I’ve waited too long into the flight to write much, but here are some highlights:

I am a big fan of Southwest, it’s service, and it’s rewards program.  I plan (hopefully) to continue to fly on Southwest as long as it is convenient.

I do not recommend staying at the Doubletree near the French Quarter in New Orleans.  I do recommend staying at the Hilton in Baton Rouge.  The people there are very friendly.

I spend the week in a mix of shadowing people in meetings with doctors, working out of a hotel room, working out of our Baton Rouge office, sitting in on other meetings, etc.  I am getting much more comfortable with reaching out to providers and actually know answers to questions, though I still have a lot to learn.

Next week it looks like I will be back in Louisiana.  I will probably work out of the Baton Rouge office on Tuesday, visit providers on Wednesday and Thursday, and fly back to St. Louis on Friday.  These will be my first solo visits!  I need to review some things but I hope I’m ready!  I’ll be responsible for outreach to Rural Health Clinics.  I spent some time this week developing a list of providers to visit.  Tomorrow I’ll try to plot out what those visits look like and figure out travel.

I really like my co-workers!  It’s a great group of people working in Louisiana.  We spent several evenings together and most of that time was spent laughing,  I hope that feeling continues and we continue to spend time together outside of the office.  I firmly believe that also helps us in the office.

We went to some regional restaurants and enjoyed the food.

Today, we had a meeting that lasted two hours, but I learned a lot.  I also knew some answers to questions J.  For the first time, I gave out business cards and have follow-up to do – it’s like I’m a real, contributing person now!

This afternoon, we got together at house of one of the few members of our team who is actually from Louisiana.  It was quite nice and we enjoyed lunch together.  I had to leave for a flight, but many of the others stayed to play golf.

Tomorrow I’ll be in the office, but I am leaving early to head to Atlanta for my friend Josh’s wedding.  Josh and I studied abroad in Israel together and I am quite excited!  I know his fiancé, Sarah, as well and they are great together.  The weekend will fly by (and it will be like I was never in St. Louis).  Nevertheless, I’m very excited!

Mid-Week Update

I’m writing this on the plane again.  That seems to be happening a lot lately.  Maybe a new trend?  I should really get better at posting during the week… hopefully I’ll be able to get into a groove/pattern with my travel and make that start happening.

Last weekend was great.  I was able to explore areas of St. Louis that I had really wanted to see.  Friday night I went out with some friends around Laclede’s Landing in downtown St. Louis.  I found some great places and a club and was able to enjoy music and dance – I was really looking for that.  Saturday night I explored the Delmar Loop at night with some friends.  It wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, but still nice.  Sunday I played disc golf with a friend at a part nearby, which was a lot of fun.  I definitely have room for improvement though.

I spent the week working in Baton Rouge, LA.  I like the office there and have now met the Louisiana Healthcare Connections staff, with the exception of some consultants and contractors.  I definitely have a lot to learn still but things are beginning to make sense and fit together.  My projects are expanding and I am starting to talk to providers on the phone – although if they ask me questions, I still often don’t know the answers.  That will come though.

This healthcare business is extremely complicated.  There are so many moving parts and I am glad to be able to see what that looks like “on the front line” – i.e. in the field.

It seems though that many providers are missing what many today to be standard pieces of a business – most specifically email.  I have also been told by some that they do not have email at home or work.  My worldview is certainly challenged by this and I need to make sure that I understand context and culture to effectively serve the people with whom I am working.

I’m a bit surprised to say this, but so far I actually like Baton Rouge.  People are just incredibly friendly.  Even people at bus stops say hello as you walk by!  I stood at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capital Center.  I was a big fan, mainly because of the people.  It did have free internet and bottled water, which was nice though.  If I am there for a while, I hope to explore the city somewhat, even though I also kind of like spending time in the hotel.

I still need to convince myself to go to bed earlier.  I wish I wasn’t tired so much.  This week was better, but I need to get better about that.  I also need to start going to the gym.

Tonight, I am going to the baseball game.  I won tickets from Centene!  I am little worried that I will miss picking them up though because my flight is late.  Hopefully it works out!

My First Business Trip

I’m writing this post while on the plane back to St. Louis to be posted once I get home.  I am wrapping up my first business trip for my new job with Centene Corporation.  It seems that I will be doing a lot of travel in my position so this is the first of many more trips to come.

What all I, specifically, am responsible for still seems to be in flux.  On this trip, I met the guy who is running development of the Louisiana network and shadowed two people who are managers in the trajectory I am on.  Both of them have 15-20 years of experience in healthcare.  We drove around and met with doctors and office managers at clinics and private practices.  We actually had pretty good results.  I like all of the people in Louisiana with whom I will be working.

I still have a lot of details to learn if I am doing what they are doing.  For now, I am focusing more on learning the contracting/negotiating role and serving more of a support function.  Right now that means developing tracking and reporting tools.  I should have a better ability to do that now that I know what it looks like in the field.  I will likely be traveling again next week and working out of the Baton Rouge office.  I was told that it’s easier to ramp up and ramp up faster if I am in the field.  It will be my second week traveling Monday-Thursday and I think that type of travel could be happening weekly.

I did get to explore New Orleans a little bit.  I’m hoping to be back there (I’m sure there is more going on in New Orleans than Baton Rouge).  I walked/ate on Bourbon Street, went by Jackson Square, walked along the Mississippi River, and ate at Red Fish, Pat O’Brien’s, and Café Du Monde.  I did hear some great musicians, but next time, I’d like to check out more live music.

Travel Preferences

I still need to figure out things like which airline and hotel chain I want to focus on.

On this trip, I flew Southwest, which was great, and stayed at the Marriott New Orleans.  The location of the hotel was great, but I wasn’t impressed by my room.

For the future, I’m leaning towards Hilton hotels.  I’m between Southwest, which only flies to New Orleans (I’d have to drive from there), but has a direct flight from St. Louis, Delta and American.  Both Delta and American fly to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other airports in Louisiana, but there are no direct flights and it takes longer to earn free tickets.  I will mostly be renting cars from National.  Centene lets me sign up for the Emerald Club.

Anyone have any recommendations on flights – quality of the airline and best rewards program?

First Week On The Job

I recently completed my first week working at Centene Corporation.  It was a good week and I am happy with my job so far.  Working full-time is certainly a change.  I am definitely not used to being somewhere at 8:00 a.m. every morning (if not earlier) and doing the whole work thing all day.  It is going to take some adjusting, but I am enjoying myself after the first week.  Hopefully I will continue to do so.

Week one started with orientation.  I saw the videos and presentations on policies, procedures, standards, etc.  As the week progressed, I got setup with my equipment, sat in on meetings, and began to understand more about what my role as Contract Negotiator is.  I spent a good amount of time on the phone with the Service Desk getting everything set up.  I still am waiting to get setup in some systems (e.g. expense reports), but I am well on the way.

My second day on the job I was listening in on a conference call and sitting in on a meeting.  By the end, some of it was making sense 🙂  I’ve also had my first WebEx meeting in a corporate setting.  I’ve got a company laptop, BlackBerry, and aircard, and should receive my corporate American Express card soon.

As a Contract Negotiator I am building provider networks for managed Medicaid plans.  I have been assigned to help develop the network for Louisiana.  As such, I will be spending much of my time on the road traveling around Louisiana.  I will be functioning as a Network Development Specialist for Louisiana Healthcare Connections – a Centene subsidiary.  It is headquartered in Baton Rouge.

My job has best been described as follows: when you enroll in a health insurance program, you may be given a book of providers (doctors, clinics, hospitals, etc.) that you can visit and which are covered by your insurance.  My role is to get those providers to be in the book.  From what I’ve gathered around the office, there are a lot of pieces to making that happen.  Some are designated by the company and some are designated by the state.  I will be interacting with quite a few corporate departments including legal, credentialing, business development, and more.

The people are great so far.  Most people do seem to be older than me, but that’s okay.  And I’m sure there are more people to meet.  My first business travel begins tomorrow morning.  I’m headed to New Orleans and then around Louisiana.  Hopefully I’ll have an even better idea of where I will plug in when I get back Thursday night.  I’m sure I have a lot to learn. 🙂

Pre-Work Update (with Denver Trip)

I start working full-time on Monday!  What a crazy idea… I’m excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, scared – just about everything.  I am confident that my job with Centene Corporation is going to be a great next step in this life journey.  I’ve had a few weeks since accepting the job offer from Centene to get back in touch with people and begin the process of re-establishing myself in St. Louis.  It seems like it will be a long process, but I am looking forward to rekindling friendships and building new ones.  Things sure have changed here in the past five years.

I had planned on making a trip to Denver (if I wasn’t going to be working there) before beginning work and it worked out for me to spend about a week in Denver recently.  It was great spending time with friends and seeing the University of Denver again before I begin my professional life.  I was also able to spend time with people who I had hoped to see before leaving Denver but timing with finals and graduation prevented it.  I’m glad that happened.

I had a “mental checklist” for my time in Denver.  Everything I had hoped would happen happened and then some.  It was a great time!  I spent time with my “adopted” Denver family, the Cohen’s.  I went camping off of Guanella Pass with some friends where we also went hiking and met some really great people (including some from England and Ireland).  Camping there was really fun though.  I was at Chabad for Mendel’s 10th birthday.  I went out downtown with friends around LoDo.  Several of us went up to Loveland to visit another friend.  We went swimming and bought a slip ‘n’ slide at Wal-Mart.  We felt grown up (haha), but it was a lot of fun!  I hung out with a friend around Capital Hill.  I went camping with my cousins at Chatfield Reservoir. I spent a day and a half around DU seeing more friends and people I used to work with.

I was able to spend time with some great people during my time in Denver.  I hope that we are all able to stay in touch and continue to be a part of each others’ lives as we all begin this next stage of life.

This weekend will be quite busy as I spend time with old friends and begin the process of making new ones.  After an amazing week in Denver, I am hopeful that this next step in St. Louis will continue my trend of fortunate and blessed experiences.  I am excited for what the future holds.  Thank you to everyone who has, continues to, and will be a part of my life!