Priority Health CEO Joan Budden to step down

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Joan Budden Courtesy Priority Health

Priority Health President and CEO Joan Budden announced her plans to retire, effective Jan. 1.

“Knowing the company is in a strong position has allowed me to plan for the next chapter in my life, which includes spending more time with family and continuing my passion for mentoring and community service,” Budden said. “I’m incredibly proud and honored to have worked with exceptional people over the last 12 years within the company, along with our partners and community leaders to improve health. Priority Health is in good hands with a strong leadership team.”

Under Budden’s leadership, Priority Health grew significantly to become the third-largest provider-sponsored health plan in the country. Doubling its size over the past decade, the plan now serves a million members each year.

The merger with Total Health Care completed at the beginning of 2020 and the more formalized relationship with Cigna Health, effective Jan. 1, have helped fuel membership growth.

Budden began her career at Priority Health in 2009 as chief marketing officer and was named president and CEO in 2016. During her tenure, she championed many innovative strategies, products and programs to ensure everyone has access to affordable care.

As an example, Priority Health offered financial support to members and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic through premium credits and is waiving cost-sharing for all virtual visits through the end of this year.

“Joan’s focus on affordability and value have been vital in advancing us toward our vision of personalized health made simple, affordable and exceptional,” said Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, the integrated health system that includes Priority Health. “She cares deeply about the company, but more importantly, she cares about individuals — and is willing to give generously of her time and talent to mentor others.”

Budden has more than 30 years of experience in the health insurance industry. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in public administration from Wayne State University.

Michigan Women Forward recently selected Budden as a recipient of its 2020 Woman of Achievement and Courage Award. She was one of three women leaders recognized statewide by the organization dedicated to mentoring and investing in women entrepreneurs across Michigan.

Her other accolades include being a Detroit 500 honoree in 2018 and 2019, Notable Women in Healthcare by Crain’s Detroit in 2018, an Inforum Inner Circle Honoree and ATHENA Award Winner by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in 2017 and one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan by Crain’s Business Detroit in 2016.

Freese Decker will engage the Furst Group for an internal and external national search for the president of Priority Health. Confidential inquires can be directed to the Furst Group via furstgroup.com. Budden will remain active in her role to ensure a smooth transition through the end of the year.

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