Garry Maisel '80 (Business Administration-Finance)

Maisel builds Western Health Advantage from ground up

Garry Maisel

When there’s a health care scoop, Garry Maisel is quick to consume it. As the president and CEO of Western Healthcare Advantage, he’s compelled to stay on top of the evolving industry trends, but he’s got a voracious appetite for newsprint, which he satiates most weekends.

“I’m a news addict,” Maisel admits. “My routine is, on Saturday and Sunday I drink a lot of coffee and read the New York Times and the (Sacramento) Bee and online news for hours.”

Maisel has plenty to keep up on these days. The Affordable Care Act is changing the way his company does business. The new health care laws will take full effect in 2014, but Maisel says the company he’s guided for 17 years has already evolved.

“As of Jan. 1, 2014, if any individual is seeking to buy a health insurance policy, insurers must sell them a policy at non-discriminatory rates,” Maisel says. “To get ready for that watershed event, we launched an individual plan. Since our inception we were a group insurance plan.”

Maisel was the first employee of Western Health Advantage, which began as a joint venture between UC Davis Health System, Dignity Health and North Bay Healthcare in 1996. He now oversees more than 100 employees at the not-for-profit organization that serves more than 100,000 members.

Maisel earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Sac State, but his education in the field began at home. As a child, he helped his mother with the accounting for the family’s home appliance service business in Stockton. Maisel was the valedictorian at Stagg High School in Stockton and after transferring from Delta Valley Junior College, he was named Sac State’s outstanding undergraduate in finance at graduation.

Maisel says his education was about more than just numbers.

“One of the first lessons I learned at Sac State was, no matter which career field you’re in, it’s your interpersonal communication skills that can set you apart,” he says. “Occasionally I talk to students and I always stress that you need to be a good communicator in how you interact and deal with people.”

After graduation, Maisel distinguished himself during a decade in the banking and finance field, then led a health plan based in Stockton before starting Western Health Advantage.

In recent years Maisel has garnered several honors for his business leadership and heavy involvement in the community. He was the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s 2010 Businessman of the Year. In 2011, he was recognized with the Individual Arts Leadership Award from the Sacramento Arts and Business Council. Last year, Maisel was named the Sacramento Business Journal’s Leader of the Year and earlier this year he received Sac State’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Maisel is currently the board chair of WEAVE, the board chair of the Non-Profit Resource Center, on the board of Valley Vision and is involved with numerous other community non-profit organizations. His company has donated to organizations throughout the region and last year named a room in Folsom Hall—Sac State’s nursing building.

“Western Health Advantage is a very philanthropic organization and that’s very important to a healthy community,” he says.

Under Maisel’s guidance, WHA saw more than $600 million in revenues last year and is positioned well for the changes ahead. WHA will be one of 13 health plans in the state to participate in Covered California—a network of providers through which individuals and families will be able to quality for subsidized insurance coverage. Open enrollment in the programs will begin Oct. 1.

For Maisel, it’s an interesting time in the industry as the new frontier presents challenges, but also opportunities.

“The biggest deal is, a whole bunch of people are going to qualify for assistance in coverage,” Maisel says. “According to Covered California, 126,000 residents in the greater Sacramento area will qualify for subsidies and I think that’s exciting.”