It’s that time of year when many New Yorkers start paying attention to their health – watching their weight, trying new diets and hitting the gym.
But for others, health care is a year-round profession and passion. Medical practitioners spend countless hours tending to their patients. Business and nonprofit executives grapple with rising costs and pursue innovative solutions as they seek to improve and expand care. And policymakers continually craft new strategies to combat epidemics and improve public health.
In this special list, we recognize the 50 most influential health care figures in the world of New York politics. Since we cover politicians on a day-to-day basis, we omitted all but a few officials who are in government, instead identifying those who influence it from the outside.
We reached out to insiders and experts to compile this list, ranking each person based on their accomplishments, economic clout, sway in political and policy matters, ties to powerful politicians and the constituencies they represent.
We’re pleased to present the inaugural Health Care Power 50.
1. Kenneth Raske
President and CEO, Greater New York Hospital Association
The Greater New York Hospital Association has become a dominant player under Kenneth Raske’s leadership, advocating for funding and legislation that is critically important to nearly 200 hospitals and health care systems in New York and nearby states.
Raske brings a sharp mind and a wealth of experience to the post. He has collaborated with 1199SEIU, the powerful health care workers union, to secure substantial state funding increases, and has partnered with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on an ongoing effort to reshape Medicaid delivery. No group spent more on state lobbying in 2017 than GNYHA.
The association also plays an active role at the federal level, including helping member hospitals through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and combating efforts to repeal it.
Raske’s ability to explain the real-world impact of complex health care policies has served him well as he works with lawmakers across the political spectrum. Before taking the reins at GNYHA in 1984, Raske held leadership positions at the Michigan Hospital Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association.
2. George Gresham
George Gresham has come a long way from mopping hospital floors, and he credits union benefits with giving him the resources and financial support to become a radiologic technologist and advance his career. The president of nation’s largest health care union is a champion of higher wages and paid family leave, and has cultivated a strong relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, praising him for defending working families while 1199SEIU donated “large amounts of money” to his re-election. When President Donald Trump threatened to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in 2017, Gresham and his union joined forces with the Greater New York Hospital Association to fight back.
A 31-year veteran of the union, Gresham held several leadership positions at 1199SEIU before he was elected president in 2007. In 2010, he was appointed by Cuomo to the groundbreaking Medicaid Redesign Team. And in December, he scored another win, helping nearly 7,500 union workers employed by NYU Langone to negotiate a new contract. Gresham called the deal “a true win for working people.”
3. Bea Grause
President, Healthcare Association of New York State
A prominent voice on New York’s most pressing health care issues, Bea Grause has plenty of experience to lean on, including a previous role navigating Vermont hospitals through an attempt to implement single-payer health care in 2011. Grause has also argued against the nurse-to-patient staffing ratio championed by the New York State Nurses Association, calling it the “wrong approach.” She has advocated for more freedom in how patients access care, saying everything else is just “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Her association makes sure its message gets through, landing among the state’s top 10 lobbying spenders in the state by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Bea Grause’s background in health care and law brings valuable skills to an organization that represents diverse interests and weighs in on everything from patient safety measures to the opioid epidemic to maternal mortality. A registered nurse who worked in the emergency department while studying for her law degree, Grause was named president of the association in 2016. She previously led the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems and served on the American Hospital Association board of trustees.
4. Mitchell Katz
President and CEO, NYC Health + Hospitals
When it came time to appoint a leader for NYC Health + Hospitals, which has had its share of financial struggles lately with deficits that could reach $1.8 billion by 2020 – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio looked to public health care executive Mitchell Katzfor his experience leading large, complex public health care systems. Katz previously steered the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services out of financial trouble, turning a $177 million deficit into a $247 million surplus in just five years.
Since starting the job a year ago, Katz has committed to fixing understaffed offices by hiring 55 primary care doctors and addressing what he saw as administrative redundancy by letting 35 employees go. He also is launching the nation’s first nurse residency program that will work on nurse retention throughout the health system. Katz – who is also a deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences – doesn’t let the responsibility of serving 1.4 million people faze him. A practicing primary care doctor, he says “everything has to be about our patients.”
5. Jill Furillo
Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association
Perhaps no other organization has raised its profile and upped the political ante over the past several years like the New York State Nurses Association – all thanks to Jill Furillo’s leadership. It began with the association’s first political endorsement in 2013, of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who was trailing in the polls at the time. After a series of hospital closings in New York, Furillo demanded the organization change its tactics from simply helping nurses find new jobs to fighting back. The move is credited with helping save Interfaith Medical Center and drawing attention to the closure of Long Island College Hospital.
The organization has been an outspoken supporter of “Medicare-for-all,” advocating for both federal and state-level efforts to create a single-payer health care system, and it has been successful in teaming up with 1199SEIU to unionize nurses across the state. Now the organization has its eye on nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, an issue Furillo spearheaded and lobbied for in her previous role as government relations director of the California Nurses Association. Furillo also served as chief negotiator and strategist at National Nurses United, working on staffing levels in collective bargaining agreements nationwide.
NEXT STORY: The 2018 Manhattan Power 50