The chief executive at Minneapolis-based UCare is leaving the HMO for a job at HealthPartners, the Bloomington-based insurance company and operator of hospitals and clinics.
Jim Eppel, who took the top position at UCare in June 2015, will transition to HealthPartners later this year, according to a Friday announcement. Eppel will take the job of executive vice president and chief administrative officer at HealthPartners, which is undergoing other leadership changes.
Longtime CEO Mary Brainerd is retiring on June 1 and will be succeeded by Andrea Walsh, who is currently executive vice president at HealthPartners.
“With a collaborative leadership style, Jim has strong health plan and care delivery experience that will make him a great fit with the HealthPartners mission, vision and culture,” Walsh said in a statement.
At UCare, Eppel has been replaced on an interim basis by Mark Traynor, the health plan’s senior vice president and chief legal officer. The HMO says it is conducting a national search for a permanent successor.
“UCare’s board has full confidence in UCare’s senior leadership team — including Mark — to lead UCare in the coming months,” said Dr. Macaran Baird, the board chair, in a statement. “We wish Jim well in his future endeavors and are grateful for his steadfast leadership during times of change at UCare.”
Eppel was the first new chief executive at UCare in two decades, following the retirement of longtime CEO Nancy Feldman.
Shortly after taking the top job, the state Department of Human Services announced competitive bidding results that dramatically downsized UCare’s role as an HMO in the Medicaid and MinnesotaCare public health insurance programs. UCare saw a major revenue cut as a result and eliminated more than 200 jobs, but is now on the verge of making a comeback in the programs.
Previously, Eppel served as a senior vice president at the Optum division of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, and was chief operating officer at Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. He’s held jobs as a vice president of business development at the Minneapolis-based Allina Health System, and started his career with KPMG Peat Marwick.