40, President and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Texas A&M University, B.S.
University of Pennsylvania, M.S.
Baylor University, M.D.
Bare-knuckle brawls with big N.C. hospitals quickly became old hat for the pediatrician who left the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to join the state’s largest health insurer in 2017. In the College Station, Texas, native’s first month on the job, Blue Cross ended a six-month contract dispute with Asheville-based Mission Health. In mid-2018, citing concerns over increased customer costs, Conway opposed the failed Atrium Health/UNC Health Care combination. Recent efforts include partnering with Bethesda, Md.-based Aledade to support independently owned physician clinics. In January, Blue Cross unveiled a plan with five large N.C. health care systems to shift much of their business to “value-based” care and away from fee-for-service payments. The state will be a national leader if the effort succeeds, Conway says.
What is North Carolina’s key challenge over the next decade?
The skyrocketing cost of health care, including for the employers and individual customers who pay for much of that care. We have to figure out how we can control, or even lower, health care costs while improving outcomes, increasing access and simplifying the whole system.
What has been your biggest surprise about the state since you moved here?
How committed people are to working together to solve our health challenges. Last year, we announced that we were investing $50 million into community-health initiatives. We are focusing on four areas: the opioid epidemic, early childhood development, social determinants of health and access to primary care. In every space, there are organizations and people who want to work with us to tackle these challenges.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I’m still a practicing pediatrician. I do it on the weekends as much as I can. I love the work and caring for children and families. It is meaningful to me to be able to serve in that way, and I think it gives me a unique perspective on our health system too.
Key 2018 accomplishment?
For the first time since Blue Cross N.C. entered the current individual market more than 25 years ago, we were able to lower rates. Our individual Affordable Care Act rates went down by an average of 4.1% statewide, or a $120 million reduction in health care costs for 2019. The reduction was made possible in large part due to new provider arrangements that make both parties responsible for the total quality and cost of care.