2015 Powered by Women

With women-owned businesses in Michigan continuing to increase in number, we asked our readers to nominate female business leaders in the region who are driving profits, adding employees, and opening new opportunities.


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Nancy Jenkins

President and CEO | HealthPlus of Michigan, Flint

Employees: 495 | Budget: $939.3M

 In March, Nancy Jenkins became the first female president and CEO of HealthPlus of Michigan, the Flint-based health and wellness insurer where she started working as a clerk nearly 35 years ago, fresh out of high school.

“When I was in high school, I did work at various jobs — anything from retail to babysitting, you name it — but this was
my first real job, I guess you could say,” Jenkins says. “I started working at HealthPlus and took advantage of its college
tuition program.”

While working full-time, she earned a bachelor’s in human resources from Spring Arbor College. Later she completed executive leadership training at America’s Health Insurance Plans, from which she earned a managed care executive certification. Jenkins is also a designated “professional” of the Academy of Healthcare Management.

With a HealthPlus resume that dates to 1982, when she was hired as an enrollment and operations coordinator, Jenkins has served in a variety of positions. Before becoming interim president and CEO last October, she was vice president of community programs and customer experience. Prior to that she was vice president of sales and marketing, with responsibility for product development and government relations.

“It’s interesting because I reflect a lot on how 33 years can go by that quickly,” Jenkins says. “I was very fortunate because it was a young company, so there wasn’t a large talent pool with people with experience (to compete against for promotions). I never got bored because there were always opportunities to learn something new and gain the experience to move on and advance. And because I had career opportunities to move up in the organization and loved the company, why would I go anywhere else?”

In addition to helping diversify the company’s offerings, she oversaw the addition of Medicare plans in 1997, pushed for preferred provider organization insurance in 2007, and got the firm involved in the Healthy Michigan plan in 2014.

Today, HealthPlus is the top administrator for county health plans for underserved populations in Bay, Genesee, and Saginaw counties.
Jenkins also helped sign HealthPlus’ largest employer group, an automotive client, and steered sales and marketing strategies that resulted in record company growth during the last 10 years.

It hasn’t been all rosy, however.

As the leader of the 500-employee insurer, Jenkins faces a number of challenges. The company is navigating rocky financial waters — and some uncertainty — as the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unfold. Earlier this year, the state put the company under Lansing’s supervision when HealthPlus’ liabilities exceeded its assets. To bolster its financial health, Jenkins and her team cut salaries, sold off parts of the business, and notified the state of planned layoffs.

But, she notes, in business as in life, challenges often present opportunities.

“I think we have to look at it that way,” Jenkins says. “Had things turned out differently, we wouldn’t have sold our Medicaid and MIChild business. We think there’s a lot of opportunity with the Medicare market as well as the commercial market. We’re going to have to be very lean and agile as we go forward.”

While she’s taken the necessary steps to align the company for future growth, the process has led to some sleepless nights. Jenkins says she finds relief from work’s pressures with her family, which includes two teenage daughters.

“They’re the joy of my life,” she says, “and one of the things that I try to bring home to them is that anything is possible.” — Ilene Wolff

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