Priority Health CMO Jim Byrne retires


Grand Rapids-based Priority Health is a nonprofit health plan that serves more than 600,000 people. Image via

Priority Health's chief medical officer for the past 20 years, Jim Byrne, will retire in July. 

“Dr. Byrne’s tenure as a valuable medical leader and advisor for Priority Health has helped build the foundation for a truly integrated health system,” said Michael P. Freed, president and CEO of Priority Health. “He has modeled an excellent example, using his passions for primary care, evidence-based medicine and chronic disease management for not only Priority Health, but for the medical community as a whole. His legacy will be long-lasting, and the entire Priority Health family wishes him nothing but the very best.”

Since joining Priority Health in 1993, Byrne has been at the forefront of supporting primary care and improving the quality of care for patients. One of his key initiatives — Priority Health’s Partners in Performance program — led Priority Health to create programs and services beyond many other health plans.

As a result, according to Priority Health, patients in Michigan are more likely to get breast and colon cancer screenings and help managing their chronic diseases than anywhere else in the nation. Since PIP launched in 1996, Priority Health has paid $170 million in support of primary care above standard payment.

In 2007, the Michigan Association of Health Plans presented Byrne with the Ellis J. Bonner Award in recognition of his leadership and contributions to the managed care industry. Also under his leadership, Priority Health earned an “Excellent” accreditation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance in 2012, the highest level a health plan can earn, for its Commercial HMO/POS, Medicaid, Medicare PPO and Medicare HMO/POS plans.

“Dr. Byrne’s influence is felt nationally through his leadership of the primary care transformation initiative for the Alliance of Community Health Plans," said Patricia Smith, president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, which is based in Washington, D.C. "Working with a group of the nation’s best community-based health plans, Jim shaped new standards for primary care and relentlessly pressed to keep the patient at the center of care delivery. Multiple organizations across the country have adopted the approach to managing back pain that was developed by Jim and his team and pioneered by Priority Health."

The White House Health Policy Committee, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Alliance of Community Health Plans frequently invite Byrne to speak as a national expert in patient-centered care and evidence-based medicine.

Prior to joining Priority Health, Byrne practiced family medicine at Lakewood Family Medicine in Holland, which he helped found in 1977.

Byrne will continue to work with the executive team and physician leadership at Priority Health until his successor is chosen.

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