Dale Jenkins builds bridges among North Carolina health care professionals
Banking and Finance
CEO, Medical Mutual Holdings, 61
By Edward Martin
Photo by Bryan Regan
He’s a Wake Forest University-trained CPA, but when it comes to Tar Heel health care, Dale Jenkins may act more like an engineer. Amid what he calls “the most transformational period in health care we have ever seen,” his influence as CEO of a large medical malpractice insurer and as a civic leader spans medicine, law and business. His roles require building bridges between many factions, a task as elusive as a cure for the common cold.
Many independent doctors bristle at pressure from health care systems with large rosters of employed physicians. Some doctors who join such systems grudgingly say they’re pushed by fear of malpractice lawsuits, regulatory mandates and turmoil in the politics of medical reimbursement.
The Shelby native joined Medical Mutual Holdings of Raleigh in 1994 and became CEO a year later. The N.C. Medical Society, which represents about 12,000 doctors, praises his “personal commitment to helping physicians succeed.” The N.C. Hospital Association, with more than 130 member hospitals, lauds his “lasting legacy on the health of North Carolinians.”
Those plaudits stem from his work at Medical Mutual, which provides malpractice insurance and other services to 13,000 physician-owners in 18 states, and from a lengthy civic résumé. He is chairman of UNC Health Care and formerly led the board of its Rex affiliate in Raleigh. In 2016, he chaired the N.C. Chamber, where he now heads a Vision 2030 group studying the state’s future. He also co-chairs a state commission to create goals to get more North Carolinians better educated.
His UNC Health Care role puts Jenkins at the heart of a blockbuster deal with huge ramifications for the state. The 12-hospital system in August announced it will merge — Jenkins calls it partnering — with much-larger Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare. The combo includes nearly 100,000 employees with about 50 hospitals and, together, almost $14 billion in revenue in 2016. Jenkins and other deal advocates say it will spark increased efficiency and improve medical practices and results, while critics contend such pairings increase costs by reducing competition.
Like it or not, consolidation is here to stay, he says. “When you think about infrastructure and particularly IT — information technology — costs, analytics, ability to scale larger populations, it gives you a perfect opportunity to reduce costs,” he says. “There are many ways to wring out [inefficiencies].” The merger also will improve access, particularly in rural areas, while allowing “North Carolinians to be in charge of health care in North Carolina.”
Virtually every aspect of the state’s $70 billion health care business is “undergoing some type of significant disruption,” Jenkins says. But the bottom line is bigger than what goes on in hospitals and doctors’ offices. “You can’t have strong economic development and job growth unless you control health care costs,” he says.
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