Beth Connor Guest, JD

Apr 08, 2014 at 10:00 am by Staff

Chief Counsel | Cigna-HealthSpring

Ask Beth Connor Guest what she does for a living, and she just might tell you she’s in the relationship business.

A veteran Nashville healthcare attorney, Guest had been with Waller for 25 years when she made the move to Cigna-HealthSpring last April. When initially approached by the managed care company, Guest said her first reaction was to politely decline. Although nice to be asked, she wasn’t looking for a change and loved working in her area of expertise helping providers across the spectrum create effective alignment strategies.

“Healthcare deals involve a lot of collaboration,” said Guest. “For most of my career, I have worked on crafting arrangements that work for all stakeholders and are intended to endure over time.” She continued, “I love the relationship side of the business. Ultimately, all of these complicated healthcare joint ventures are about a relationship built on similar values.”

In the end, collaboration and relationships helped sway Guest’s decision to embark on a new venture as chief counsel overseeing the legal function for Cigna-HealthSpring’s Senior Segment. “Cigna-HealthSpring really is a different kind of company,” she said. “It’s a very collaborative, engaged physician model.”

But professional relationships weren’t the only ones on her mind when she accepted the position. Personal experience has made Guest passionate about offering seniors more effective care options. In 2004, her father-in-law died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. A year later, she lost her father to lymphoma. “All those encounters with healthcare helped shape my view of the ideal care model for seniors,” she explained.

“It’s very personal for me. My mother, who died in March 2014 after a long decline from a rare form of ALS, was my role model, and I see how coordinated care greatly improved the quality of her life.”

Madge Connor, Guest’s mother, was a working psychologist raising four children at a time when many women didn’t seek professional careers. Guest recalled, “Her mantra was, ‘You should learn to do everything you can do. No job is too small, and it’s important to someone.’”

Guest also credited Reggie Hill, a longtime partner at Waller who is now chief compliance officer for LifePoint Hospitals, with helping shape her professional worldview. “Reggie took the time to train me early in my career to learn the business and to provide the top level of service. There’s no substitute for that,” Guest noted.

In this era of health reform and changing regulatory environment, bringing a lifetime of skills to the table has never been more important. Sometimes, Guest said, health law is counterintuitive or has unintended consequences, which can make it particularly tough to navigate.

On the other hand, she said that also is what makes her field so intellectually stimulating. In hindsight, she continued, difficult situations and challenges tend to be great teaching moments and spark innovation.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime, seismic change in healthcare delivery, and there are some really creative solutions out there,” she said with excitement. For her part, Guest said she wants to keep working on collaborative relationships to bring providers and payers together to implement the move from volume to value.

From experience, she knows the restorative value friends, family and nature bring to her life. Whenever possible, the family — husband David and three children, college students Emily and Connor and fourth-grader Natalie — loves to head east to their small cabin in the Smoky Mountains. “There is something peaceful and grounding about spending time in the mountains,” Guest said.

Recognizing that prevention is the best medicine, Guest has also become passionate about fitness and laughingly noted she has pulled her good friends along. “We hike Radnor, run a race, do a spin class … anything to keep moving.”

It isn’t likely Guest is going to slow down anytime soon with a busy family, close-knit group of friends, and challenging career, but she only has to look to the example of her own mother to know grace, hard work and good humor will carry you a long way.

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