Deborah L. Rice-Johnson

CEO of Diversified Businesses and Chief Growth Officer

Back to Leadership page

Deborah Rice-Johnson is CEO of Diversified Businesses for Highmark Inc. and chief growth officer. She is an innovative health leader, driven by a passion for reinventing health care experiences and pioneering provider relationships designed to keep care close to home and change antiquated reimbursement methods. Through diverse and inventive relationships ranging from joint ventures to equity interest partnerships, she has spearheaded affiliations and clinical alliances with Penn State Health, Geisinger Health System, Lehigh Valley and many regionally-based health care providers.

As CEO of Diversified Businesses, she is responsible for Highmark subsidiaries including: United Concordia Dental, the sixth largest dental plan nationally that serves the largest voluntary dental program in the world with TRICARE; HM Insurance Group, a top ten national stop loss carrier with additional managed care reinsurance solutions; and Helion, a healthcare technology and services firm that helps payers cultivate high-performing networks while empowering providers to operate at their best.

As chief growth officer, Ms. Rice-Johnson is responsible for pursuing a range of strategic partnerships, affiliations and acquisitions that enables Highmark to unlock the shared value to organizations and transform healthcare. Together, we will realize the potential of a Living Health model, which creates a better system for customers and clinicians through innovative solutions and partnerships while strengthening community-based care, improving health outcomes and lowering costs for members.

In her role as president of Highmark Inc., Ms. Rice-Johnson provided senior leadership and strategic direction for the company’s multi-state health insurance organization. During this time, she guided Highmark through successful affiliations in Delaware, West Virginia, Western and Northeastern New York, as well as a merger in Northeastern Pennsylvania. As a result, Highmark Health Plans are now among the largest Blue Plans in the country, serving more than 6 million members and Highmark Inc. revenue has grown to approximately $20 billion.

Ms. Rice-Johnson has more than 30 years of experience in the health insurance industry. Her leadership has not only redefined the payer-provider relationship and yielded unparalleled financial performance, but she has also delivered innovative clinical solutions that aim to improve health outcomes. She is also keenly committed to positively impacting the employment situation of our nation’s military veterans and those with disabilities through championing private-sector hiring efforts.

Ms. Rice-Johnson holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Carlow University. In 2014 she was named a Carlow Laureate, the university's most prestigious alumni award recognizing those whose work, thought, and action demonstrate the highest standards of professional accomplishment and leadership. She was also most recently named to Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women Leaders in 2022, a program honoring female executives who are guiding healthcare delivery improvement across the country.

Current Board affiliations:

  • Blue Health Intelligence
  • Carlow University
  • Dollar Bank
  • Epilepsy Association of Western and Central Pennsylvania, Chariman Emeritus
  • Evio
  • Mindera Health
  • Penn State Health
  • The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Variety the Children's Charity, President

Thought Leadership Topics:

Creating community-based networks of care

  • Developing a continuum of provider partnerships, clinical joint ventures, and integrations that bring primary and specialty care closer to where people work and live. This includes Highmark's ongoing investments in Allegheny Health Network and partnerships with Penn State Health, Geisinger and Lehigh Valley.

Forging innovative payer-provider partnerships

  • Collaborating with providers to align financial incentives to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. This includes Highmark's signature True Performance program, which rewards primary care physicians for delivering high-value care. More than 2,000 primary care practices, covering nearly 2 million lives, participate across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware. Highmark's claims data shows that the program has helped to avoid over $2 billion in total health care costs since its start in 2017.

Improving health care affordability

  • Combatting the rising cost of prescription drugs through value-based agreements that hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for clinical and cost effectiveness.
  • Ensuring members and patients receive evidence-based, high-quality care in the most cost-effective and convenient care setting.

Creating a remarkable health experience

  • Investing in technology, care navigation tools and other resources that make it easier for our members and patients to manage their health and access the right care at the right time.

Helping veterans reach their full potential

  • Applying veterans' unique skills, experience and commitment to teamwork to employment opportunities at Highmark and in all of the communities we serve.


Modern Healthcare: Top 25 Women Leaders, February 2022
Recognized for guiding healthcare delivery improvement across the country.

Delaware Business Times, April 2021: ChristianaCare, Highmark partner on preventative care venture
"Highmark has been engaged in joint ventures before that really tie the two organizations together in a way that is much more robust and we each will hold each other accountable for delivering results."

Forbes, March 2021: Highmark Completes Deal With HealthNow To Become Fourth-Largest Blue Cross Plan
"We look forward to bringing our resources, tools and advanced technologies to Western and Northeastern New York. With this affiliation, we begin our path forward to enhance customer and clinician engagement, create better health outcomes, control costs and improve affordability for members in Western and Northeastern New York."

Health Evolution Webcast, August 2020: Accelerating Future Care Delivery Models
COVID-19 is fueling advocacy and demand for consumer centric care models that will require new uses of technologies, leveraging the right data, improving care coordination and continued innovative work after the pandemic.

Pittsburgh Business Times, July 2020: Deb Rice-Johnson discusses creating a remarkable health experience for customers
"Strategic partnerships and affiliations will allow us to invest in new capabilities for our Living Health model, and improve our cost competitiveness. That translates to better care, lower cost and greater access for our members."

Disability Matters Radio Show: Highmark, Inc. Committed to Hiring People with Disabilities, November 2021
"People with disabilities bring their unique perspectives and experiences that help us better serve our communities and shape the solutions we bring to the marketplace."

City and State PA, July 2021: Pennsylvania Healthcare Power 100 and Pittsburgh Business Times: 2021 Power 100, January 2021
Named among Pennsylvania’s top public officials, health care executives, innovators, academics, advocates, and activists who have steered the state’s healthcare landscape; Also named among Pittsburgh's most influential business leaders.


Contact us to arrange an interview

Aaron Billger

Highmark Health


Email Aaron

Leilyn Perri

Highmark Health


Email Leilyn