AUGUSTA – Along with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Maine’s Trish Riley, the architect of Dirigo Health, has been named one of the top 25 women in health care nationally.

Monday’s edition of Modern Health Care, a magazine for health care executives, listed what it considers the top 25 women. Those on the list include women across the country who have shaped public policy, from hospital CEOs to researchers to Capitol Hill lobbyists.

Being named to the list “is quite an honor,” said James Cassidy, president of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. Cassidy described Modern Health Care as among the most widely read publications by health care executives. “It’s a journal I would expect that every hospital CEO in the country reads,” he said.

Riley said Tuesday she was surprised to find out she was among those named, saying others on the list are health care pioneers. “Gail Wilensky served for the first President Bush in what was HCFA (Health Care Financing Administration) in Medicaid,” and is now a senior fellow at an international health education foundation. Others on the list are Diane Rowland, who directs the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, and Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private nonpartisan philanthropic organization that makes grants to improve health care practice and policy. Clinton was named as someone working for health care quality improvements in the country.

Being named in the top 25 “is humbling,” especially considering the group of women named, Riley said. “They’re all people who have started new things. I’m honored to be part of it.”

The magazine credited Riley as the chief architect of Dirigo Health Reform Act, designed to solve health care cost and access problems while ensuring that all of Maine’s 1.3 million residents eventually have access.

In the current edition, Modern Health Care explained it came up with the top 25 women for the first time because the industry has long been dominated by men. It wanted to recognize women executives who are “challenging that tradition and working hard to improve the health care industry and its ability to care for patients,” states the editorial.

Before announcing the winners, the magazine received 118 nominations. A staff of six picked the winners on criteria including a demonstrated the ability or power to effect change in health care, sharing expertise with others, and successfully serving as a leader.

Riley, 54, lives in Brunswick, and is director of Gov. John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. As the chief architect of Baldacci’s top program, Riley is responsible for implementing Dirigo, a program criticized by Republicans as something the state can’t afford, and defended by Democrats as something Maine can’t afford not to do.

Before working for Baldacci, Riley was executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy from 1989 to 2003. She also held appointive positions under four Maine governors, directing programs for the elderly, Medicaid and health planning.

She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maine.


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