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The List: New Jersey’s Top 10 Healthcare Policy Analysts and Experts

Knowlton, Cantor cited by policymakers as authoritative voices

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New Jersey’s healthcare experts span a wide variety of areas of expertise and approaches to policy. They include academics, trade association representatives, and hospital and insurance executives.

But a common thread unites these experts: the shared experience of having contributed to and observed the results of New Jersey’s experiments in healthcare reform that preceded the federal Affordable Care Act.

The following list intentionally includes some names other than might be expected. There are no repeats from NJ Spotlight’s list of the top healthcare lobbyists published in July. Although many top lobbyists are also policy experts, we wanted to highlight a separate set of experts. In addition, this list doesn’t include any current elected officials or state employees, focusing instead on those in the private sector. The list is derived from expert opinions drawn from policymakers and close observers of the process. Without further ado:

1. David Knowlton, president and CEO, New Jersey Healthcare Quality Institute

As the former deputy health commissioner in Gov. Thomas H. Kean’s administration, Knowlton has been at the front lines of New Jersey policymaking for as long as anyone on this list. He also helped bring together business and labor while leading the Health Care Payers Coalition of New Jersey. His voice carries enormous weight in legislative hearings and he has become a national advocate for using quality metrics to assess hospitals through his position on the Leapfrog Group’s board.

2. Joel Cantor, director, Rutgers Center for State Health Policy

Many policy experts are experts within their specific fields, but Cantor wields a broad range of knowledge that he brings to bear on many subjects through his research reports. Cantor was the lead author on the definitive study of the potential effect of the ACA on health insurance enrollment in the state. When Cantor weighs in on an issue, his contribution is certain to have an effect on the outcome.

3. Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, director, Cooper University’s Institute of Urban Health; executive director, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers

While the source of Brenner’s passion comes from his firsthand experience as a primary-care doctor in Camden, he has also become the foremost policy expert in the state on urban health. Both his advocacy of using data to target patient care through hotspotting and his ambition to make Camden a national model for solving healthcare’s fundamental problems led to his being recognized as a MacArthur Fellow.

4. Amy Mansue, president and CEO, Children’s Specialized Hospital

While Mansue is no longer on the front lines of policymaking, her deep experience in state government is informing her approach as a hospital leader. In fact, her well-rounded background (she served as deputy human services commissioner) has added to the force her voice carries when policymakers consult with her.

5. John V. Jacobi, health law and policy professor, Seton Hall University School of Law

Jacobi is the state’s foremost expert on the intersection of health law and policy, and he knows state government from the inside and out, having served in Gov. Jon Corzine’s counsel’s office. Jacobi’s research outlined many of the challenges and opportunities of having a state-based health insurance exchange. While Gov. Chris Christie opted against it, Jacobi remains a top voice on health law and policy.

6. Linda J. Schwimmer, vice president, New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute

Schwimmer’s addition to the institute’s staff was one of the major personnel changes in the world of healthcare policy this year. She is an expert on a broad range of policy issues related to health insurance, drawing on her time as director of strategic relations and external affairs at Horizon Healthcare Innovations and director of legislation and policy for the state Department of Banking and Insurance.

7. Uwe E. Reinhardt, professor of political economy, Princeton University

Reinhardt led a commission that analyzed ways to rationalize the state’s healthcare resources. While some of the commission's report’s key findings haven’t been enacted, he remains a major national voice on healthcare economics and was cited by multiple policymakers as a key expert in the state.

8. Larry Altman, vice president, Horizon Blue Cross Shield of New Jersey Office of Health Care Reform

In the insurance industry, perhaps no one better understands the effect that the ACA will have on the state, according to healthcare observers. He also can clearly and concisely explain what these changes will mean -- and point out where questions about the law continue to linger.

9. George Laufenberg, administrative manager, New Jersey Carpenters Fund

Laufenberg has been a major policy voice for organized labor in some of the significant policy debates of the past decade. He was cited as a font of knowledge on how policy will affect his members, and labor more broadly.

10. Sarah McLallen, vice president, New Jersey Association of Health Plans

The youngest member of this list, McLallen was described as a healthcare policy wonk by insiders, who say her thorough knowledge of the issues adds weight to her advocacy for insurers. Even when policy experts disagree with her, they say her fact-based presentations inform policy outcomes.

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