Friday, April 12, 2024

Dale Jenkins’ views on Med Mutual’s new name, health care issues

Dale Jenkins is among the most influential leaders in the state’s health care industry. The Shelby native is a director and former chairman of the UNC Health Care Board of Directors. His day job is as CEO of Medical Mutual Holdings of Raleigh, where he’s been CEO since 1995. About 13,000 physicians are owners of the insurer, which provides malpractice coverage and other services.

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Now Medical Mutual is changing its name to Curi after getting some branding counsel from Minneapolis-based Bionic Giant, a marketing agency.

Jenkins talked about the name change and health care issues in an interview that was edited for clarity.

How did you come up with that name?

By nature we are curious company and it’s a derivative of curiosity. We think Curi reflects our strategy in a better way.

Organizations that are successful are, first, always looking for ways to do things better. Second, we’re disruptive and not afraid to change the business model. Third, we’re in a war for talent and we need innovative people who will be great ambassadors.

We’re not just an insurance company. We are developing a complete resource for physicians. We tell them, “You take care of the patients. We’ll take care of you.” Our new mission statement is simple: We help doctors in medicine, business and life.

What are some of those services beyond insurance?

We  offer human resources support, cybersecurity coverage, wealth management and retirement services, some unique investment opportunities. There’s a lot more to come.

We have a dual transformation strategy. First we want to make our core business the best it can be. But at the same time, we are looking at other offerings that use the resources we’ve built over the last 44 years, thereby allowing us to do so much more.

How many of your members operate in groups that are independently owned and not part of health care systems?

About 95%, even though that sandbox is shrinking because the systems are acquiring more practices. But we are insuring more people than we ever have. We can write business in 47 states. The exceptions are California, Massachusetts and New York.

Your roles include representing both physicians and a big health care system. That can be a tense relationship, right?

How doctors and hospitals can cohabitate is something I’ve thought about for a long time. When I was asked to join the UNC Healthcare board, I realized I could be a force for physicians and talk about their ideas.

It’s important to have strong partnerships between doctors and hospitals. UNC Health Care is a good example of the benefits from a willingness to partner. If you can help the physicians be successful, the system can be successful.

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So Curi doesn’t encourage or discourage physician groups from selling their practices to systems?

We try to make sure the physicians understand all of their alternatives. A lot think their only choice is to go with the systems. But we can offer some resources that enable them to grow their practices and we can do wealth management, retirement planning and all of the other things that a physician needs.

Does mutual ownership make it harder to build capital for reserves and growth?

When I joined the company in 1994, I thought capital would be a problem. We had $18 million back then. Now we have more than $500 million. We’ve grown creatively and while every organization would like to have more, we think we have adequate capital.

But the concept of mutuality is key to us. we love it when everyone’s interests are aligned .

Do you have big growth ambitions?

We’d like to double our size in insurance over the next five years. But we also want our other businesses to be as big as insurance some day.

What impact is hospital consolidation having on physicians?

It’s a big deal for physicians and they are looking for organizations that can help them navigate this period of disruption. I think it’s causing a lot of stress. There’s also a lot of physician burnout, which is a systemic  problem.

Do physicians favor more price transparency for patients.

I’m a proponent of transparency and promoting quality scores because people want to be informed and many are spending more money out of pocket. But the answer would be mixed within our membership.

I think great organizations run to the light and they don’t let things be imposed on them. Then they try to make a market and be at the forefront of change. I love the idea of measuring patient satisfaction. You’ve got to pay attention to that.

What do you think of value-based medicine in which providers receive incentives for keeping their patients healthy rather than traditional fee-for-service programs.

I think it has some traction and people are trying to figure out how that would work. It’s very difficult to implement and it takes a titanic shift in reimbursement models.

It requires taking some risk on both sides (hospitals and physicians) in return for potential rewards.


David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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