Written by Alexis Simms, communications coordinator, Nashville Health Care Council

Executive Briefing featuring Keith Payet

On August 18, Leadership Health Care (LHC) held its first virtual Executive Briefing. The speaker was UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee President and CEO Keith Payet. During this hour-long conversation moderated by Hayley Hovious, President, Nashville Health Care Council, Payet discussed a variety of topics from his untraditional career path, his evolving view of leadership, leading through a pandemic and much more. Continue reading to learn about Keith Payet.

Payet on his unconventional career path

I began laying out my career path, while finishing my undergraduate degree, and working at Attorney General’s office in their Consumer Fraud Department. At that time, I began speaking with FBI recruiters about becoming a Special Agent. I was advised that it would be best for me to apply after having a few years of consistent work history. As such, I figured the best path forward would be to do fraud investigations work. After a few years as a Fraud Investigator, I left the field and began working at State Farm Insurance in their auto claims department. Eventually, my health care career began when I was recruited to be a Healthcare Fraud investigator for Capital District Physician’s Health Plan out of Albany, NY. I spent the next five years as a Healthcare Fraud Investigator. That experience helped me understand the relationships between the member/patient, provider/doctor, managed care company, and state and federal regulators. It also allowed me to work with all functional areas within a managed care organization. During this time, I also worked with external Tasks Forces such as an FBI task force that was investigating white collar crime, specifically health care fraud. Having accumulated over 8 years of experience, I felt that that I had met the requirements to apply to be an FBI Agent. I was fortunate enough to be selected to sit for the exam. As I pursued that opportunity, I had to make the difficult decision between moving ahead and pursuing my “dream job” or to continue my prospering health care career. Since we are here today you know I chose the latter.

Payet on positioning yourself for your next opportunity and the value of LHC’s yearly delegation trip

“Build your network! It will provide you access to opportunities that you may not otherwise hear about. As you get to know individuals, they become references for you. They end up promoting you, when you least expect it. Networking is critical.”

“Taking the LHC trip to D.C. is important. I got to meet individuals from different sectors of health care. Whether it was finance, venture capitalists, startups, etc., you get to meet a broad range of people who are in-kind to what you are doing. It is a great opportunity.”

Payet on the evolving nature of leadership

“I knew I wanted to be a leader before I even started my career.  My younger vision of leadership was  nothing like what I am doing today. As a leader today, I work within a very complex system that has many stakeholders and dependencies. An organization that is matrixed, you must work with many individuals, at all levels, across the country and at times globally.  On a day to day basis, I also manage a team of approximately 500 individuals here in the state of Tennessee. UHC supports over 480K Medicaid and D-SNP individuals throughout the state of Tennessee.”

Payet on being a CEO during a pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, we were developing programs that would improve access to care. Programs supporting telehealth, access to food and transportation. The pandemic expedited the work we were doing and required us to provide the people we serve with more opportunities to address their needs while they isolate in their homes and access to caregivers and providers changed. We had to address policies and look at how we address changing social needs as well. “There are a lot of children that are dependent on the food that they are getting from their school system, for example.” UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of TN was able to partner with Mid-South Food Bank mobile pantry to transport food to where people are during the pandemic – at home or at clinics. “The pandemic really pushed us to look further into the future and evaluate how we are utilizing data, technology and meeting the needs of the people we serve.”

Payet on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Payet put forth questions an organization should be asking themselves around DEI efforts. “What are you doing as organization, what can you do better? How do we ensure fairness and equitable practices for our employees and future pool of candidates? What are we doing to develop the next generation of leaders (women, minorities, and people of all abilities)?” UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of TN is already asking themselves these tough questions and we have done a lot of work as an organization and we keep adding to opportunities. Payet is a co-lead for their D&I Council, and they are working with many employee resources. There are training programs, various conversations being facilitated, identification and development opportunities, programs for those with all abilities, and the list goes on. We are also looking at subjects such as health equity, community engagement, and socioeconomic status and barriers to care.  “I am personally and professionally driven to represent myself and others, ensuring fairness and equality.”