Yorktown resident Christopher Palmieri knew early on that he wanted to be in the health care field. He first started working as a summer intern in a primary care clinic when he was a junior in college.
Now, he is a successful businessman and the president of VNSNY Choice Health Plans, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, a not-for-profit provider of home and community-based health services.
The father of two daughters and a third baby on the way, was recently recognized in the New York City business publication Crain’s New York as one of 'Crain’s 40 Under 40.' He was 39 years old at the time.
"It really is an honor to receive the award, especially on the 25th anniversary year, and to be among 39 other people who are the best and brightest up-and-comers in the New York business community," Palmieri said.
By age 20, Palmieri was negotiating managed-care contracts in the nascent field. At age 22, her bought his first Porsche. He loves cars and still has a Porsche, but he doesn't have much time to drive it, he said.
"I have a station wagon that my girls, ages 6 and 4, really like," Palmieri said.
Palmieri holds a Bachelor of Science from Ithaca College in health services administration, with a concentration on managed care. His wife Amy works in the . The family chose to live in Yorktown because it was affordable as well as "peaceful, country living," Palmieri said.
Patch caught up with him to ask him about his successes and how he was able to move up the corporate ladder.
Patch: How did you become interested in the medical field?
Palmieri: My uncle owned a small nursing home, one of my brothers and sister are executives in the long-term care field, my other brother worked in a nursing home dietary department for 26 years, and my mom is a nurse. Healthcare is in our blood.
Patch: How did you move up the corporate ladder or found your own business?
Palmieri: I was in the right place at the right time, had good knowledge of how managed care plans worked and how the financing and reimbursement was constructed. Then I worked on a start-up plan for a managed care program owned by a hospital that blossomed to a very successful business.
After that, 9-11 happened and I found myself moving to NYC to lead the turnaround of another managed care plan; from there, I worked on two more start-ups, one of which brought me to VNSNY in 2005. All of these have been success stories.
Patch: Where did you get the financing? What were the biggest challenges?
Palmieri: The funding for these projects came from the organizational sponsors, physicians, hospitals, home health care organizations and the investor community. The biggest challenge is getting a board or investor to understand and believe that what you are doing will be successful, and will contribute to the advancement of the organization's mission and provide a public benefit.
Patch: Was there something unique about managed care when you were 20 that made it possible for someone so young to be so successful?
Palmieri: I loved the whole concept of the financing and risk models and, if done property, how the goals of quality, cost control and accessibility could be fully aligned. I studied it, almost exclusively, while in college, at a time when it was not very popular on the East Coast; most HMOs were in California. The Dean of Ithaca called me into his office one day and said,"why are you so focused on managed care, it’s just a fad and will never become a true financing mechanism." I guess he was wrong.
Patch: What is your definition of success?
Palmieri: Hard work and happiness with one's self – while doing good for others.
Patch: How have you remained successful in a tough economy?
Palmieri: I've worked hard, been patient, and continue to do good for those who are less fortunate, those who are very ill, and those that the healthcare system has left behind.
Patch: What is the most important thing a person needs to be successful?
Palmieri: Commitment to the role, courage to make mistakes and learn from them, and the wisdom to know that one person can't have all the answers.
Patch: What do you like the most about your job?
Palmieri: Helping people.
Patch: And the least?
Palmieri: Organizational politics.
Patch: Tell us more about VNSNY CHOICE and how do you make people's lives easier?
Palmieri: VNSNY CHOICE is a unique kind of health plan for Medicaid and/or Medicare eligible individuals; it’s a model that reinvents managed care in an extraordinary way and actually does make people’s lives (both someone who’s aging and their family caregivers) as you say, "easier."
We start from the premise that people are happier, healthier and live longer, much better lives when they can stay engaged in their communities, surrounded by their families and the people and things that they love. At the center of the CHOICE model is a Nurse Care Manager—a registered nurse—who supervises an entire team of health care professionals, from home health aides to physical therapists to nutritionists, literally any health service that a member needs.
The nurse and her team serve as the “eyes and ears” for the physician, monitoring the physical and emotional well-being of each member—often noticing subtle, easily overlooked changes that could indicate a serious health risk. They build strong relationships with each member, facilitating communication among all those who provide care, including the member’s family. Without this kind of consistent, proactive attention, many elderly New Yorkers challenged with multiple chronic conditions would end up in the emergency room or hospitalized with serious illnesses that could have been avoided.
And you’re right, we really do make everything easy for prospective members and their families, all they need to do is call 1-855-AT-CHOICE and our nurses and social workers will start walking them through the process. I’m proud to say that in addition to serving all five boroughs of New York, we’ve recently expanded our service to Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties and we anticipate further growth throughout New York State in the coming year.
Patch: Two of your siblings and uncle are involved in nursing homes. Do you envision the managed care system changing or evolving in any way?
Palmieri: More populations will be covered under managed care delivery systems to achieve the triple aim: improved quality, access and affordability.
Patch: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years?
Palmieri: Running a multi-state health insurance plans for the poorest, sickest, most frail Americans.
Patch: If you could give advice to someone starting a new career, what would you tell them?
Palmieri: Pursue your dreams and never compromise on what you want to accomplish in life.
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