For William S. George, 60, Health Partners' president and chief executive, that story, which in his words, "tugs at the heartstrings," is an example of doing the right thing no matter what it costs. "It's what we truly believe here," he said. "That's the boundary of making a decision here."
Asked to elaborate, George said: "Sometimes doing the right thing means approving something that is very expensive for a member. . . . The member needs a wheelchair that costs 50,000 bucks. Well, you know what, that's the right thing, so do it. We don't want to be in the newspaper for denying some care that the member could have used and destroys our reputation."
That attitude is what helped George - who believes so strongly in collaboration that he did not want to be interviewed or photographed for this article without some of his top lieutenants on hand - win a special award for leadership at companies with more than 500 employees in the Top Workplaces 2012 survey.
Mary K Stom, senior vice president for health care management and chief medical officer at Health Partners, offered the example of a social worker on her staff who took the initiative to help a Haitian mother and daughter who came to Philadelphia in 2009.
The 13-year-old daughter had cerebral palsy and needed an expensive wheelchair and handheld computer to communicate. Her mother, who could not speak English, needed an interpreter to help arrange for her daughter's care so she could work. The social worker arranged it all.
"Fortunately, Bill trusts me and my team," Stom said. "If my team says, 'We need this,' then that's what happens, and that's the tone that Bill has set since I've been here," said Stom, who has been at Health Partners for six years.
Stom said she did not know the cost of the help for the Haitian family.
Health Partners, which employs 520 and has headquarters at Ninth and Market Streets, had $1 billion in total revenue last year, up 4 percent from $963 million in 2010, when the nonprofit's net income was $9.2 million. Last year's net income figure was not yet available.
In the last three years, Health Partners' membership has climbed 18 percent, to 160,016 in December from 146,187 three years earlier, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Health Partners has a 36 percent market share in the city for Medicaid recipients, putting it in second place behind Keystone Mercy Health Plan, whose market share is 46 percent.
Health Partners, founded in 1985, is unusual in that it is still owned by a group of Philadelphia hospitals.
The owners are: Albert Einstein Medical Center, Aria Health, Episcopal Hospital, Hahnemann University Hospital, St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, and Temple University Hospital.
A Temple representative had praise for George, an accountant by trade who has been an executive at Health Partners since 1992 and president and CEO since 2006.
"Under William George's leadership, Health Partners is one of the state's most significant and innovative Medicaid health-maintenance organizations," said Robert H. Lux, vice president and chief financial officer of the Temple University Health System.
Among Health Partners' innovations are methods for reducing members' unnecessary emergency-room visits, as has been recognized by an industry group.
But with health-care reform, George is looking for growth. "We hope to minimally increase by 50 percent, if not double, by the end of 2014," hiring as many as 250, he said.
Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or email@example.com.