Margaret Jordan: Nursing Her Hmo Back To Health

Margaret H. Jordan is one of those people who can't stand to watch something done wrong. Early in her career, the nurse was working in a San Francisco hospital on a health care program for the poor. It drove her nuts to see how ill-coordinated the program was: Funds were allocated sloppily, and the poor didn't get nearly the services they deserved. "As a result," she says, "I knew I wanted to coordinate."

Jordan, 48, has spent nearly a quarter of a century coordinating--and improving. She is vice-president and regional manager of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Texas, a health maintenance organization. Jordan took the job in 1986, when the unit of Kaiser Permanente was losing money and members. Jordan added four locations, bringing the total to 10. She helped recruit 115 doctors to add to the staff of 35, made benefits more competitive, and phased in strict cost controls. Membership has soared more than 130%, to nearly 118,000. After losing $6 million in 1986, the HMO is expected to break even this year and make a profit within 12 to 18 months.

Jordan was Georgetown University's first black nursing school graduate in 1964. She joined Kaiser in 1981 to help launch an Atlanta HMO. Now, the tennis-playing administrator wants to assume "a much more visionary role." For example, she'd like to tailor preventive medicine programs to different ethnic groups. Whatever she does, it will be a lot easier now that her HMO's foundation is healthy.

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