Medicaid Who’s Who Interview: Robert Garnett

Robert Garnett, MBA, CHIE, is President, Amerigroup Tennessee at Anthem, Inc

Check out his LinkedIn profile HERE.

Which segment of the industry are you currently involved?

Amerigroup Tennessee is a Medicaid Managed Care Health Plan and is part of the Medicaid Central Region and Government Business Division at Anthem, Inc. We are privileged to serve approximately 400,000 Tennesseans in the TennCare program across TANF, SSI, LTSS, and IDD (ECF) products. TennCare is regarded by most as one of the most advanced and innovative Medicaid programs in the country, so it is both exciting and daunting to be on the forefront of the industry. We have a terrific team of experienced and passionate leaders at Amerigroup Tennessee and it is my absolute honor to lead them and deliver on our promise to not only meet the needs of our members, our providers, and the State of Tennessee, but do so with a keen eye towards the future.

How many years have you been in the Medicaid industry?

I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare when I first joined Amerigroup in 2007. I have been privileged to stay involved in Medicaid ever since, serving in a variety of Corporate and health plan roles over 12 years. I was selected into Amerigroup’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) early on in my career and it was nothing short of a life changing experience to get exposure to our Executive Leadership Team and spend time in Business Development, Government Relations, Product Development, and Quality during a time of so much growth and industry maturation. Since 2011, I have spent the majority of my time in the Southeast serving on the health plan Operations side and in leadership roles in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and now in Tennessee since 2014.

What is your focus/passion? (Industry related or not)

I am passionate about collaborating and engaging with our providers, community-based organizations, and the State of Tennessee to achieve excellence in providing care and solutions to the Medicaid population through innovative, engagement-focused approaches. Amerigroup’s focus on addressing our members’ barriers to health has potential to revolutionize how we think about our healthcare system. It’s exciting to be in a role and at a company with the ability to impact these social determinants of health. Leveraging technology and engaging our members where they are presents significant opportunity to identify and combat some of the large social barriers to care that are at the heart of the challenge we face every day as a Medicaid Managed Care organization in improving the health of our members.  

What is the top item on your “bucket list?”

Professionally, I would love to be regarded as a leader in the movement to address social barriers to care when all is said and done. Improving the fundamental way care is delivered would be a monumental change in the health care system, but a change in my opinion with huge return for all. Personally, I would love to make it to Australia with my wife. We had the pleasure of going to New Zealand before we had our children and it was a truly fantastic part of the world unlike any other place I have ever been.

What do you enjoy doing most with your personal time?

Nothing helps get my energy level up and my day off to a great start than getting a workout in, particularly when the activity is out on the trails in the Tennessee woods near my house. I am someone that truly enjoys nature and the outdoors and whether it’s on a trail in Tennessee or climbing a mountain in Colorado, it’s always enjoyable and helps me put everything into perspective. It also happens to be where I do my best innovative thinking and problem solving.  

Who is your favorite historical figure and why?

Without George Washington’s leadership, many other great leaders in our country’s history- Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, Franklin Roosevelt, etc. wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have had the impact they did if not for Washington’s tenacity, steadfastness, and his ability to make decisions during difficult times and as our country’s first President.  I’d particularly recommend “Washington,” by James Thomas Flexner, which provides a very interesting and different look into his life.

What is your favorite junk food?

My wife threw a candy themed party for my 30th birthday and so that pretty much speaks for itself. I am a huge movie buff and a trip to the theatre isn’t complete without a box of Junior Mints to enjoy.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

I was extremely fortunate to be the project leader for Amerigroup Georgia’s RFP submission for Foster Care when the population first moved into managed care and we were selected to be the first managed care organization to lead it. The process and solution development exemplified everything about teamwork and buckling down against tight timelines and a challenging environment that I enjoy most in this industry. The opportunity to create innovative solutions and best practices that improve the care for such a vulnerable population was extremely rewarding both professionally and personally.

For what one thing do you wish you could get a mulligan?

Missing my twins’ 2nd birthday for a business trip. It was an important lesson in proper work life balance. What that taught me is that more often than not, there is someone else that is more than ready to jump in and it affords them experience that they otherwise might not get and ensures you remain focused on the most important things in life. It also demonstrates and supports your leadership philosophy to live by the words you preach.

What are the top 1-3 issues that you think will be important in Medicaid during the next 6 months?

Health care reform, specifically work requirements, block grants, and other waiver requests clearly pose the greatest area of change, opportunity, and disruption in Medicaid Managed Care.


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