He knows the business

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Mark Parkinson, President, CEO of American Health Care Association
Mark Parkinson, President, CEO of American Health Care Association
You don't want to start an argument with Mark Parkinson. You are not likely to win.

A former high school and college debater, he graduated top of his class at the University of Kansas law school. In other words, he knows how to make a case.

But Parkinson doesn't like to use his verbal skills to score points as much as bring people together, he says. That is one of his big goals as the American Health Care Association's president and CEO, a mantle he assumes this month.

“There are divisions in the eldercare community that hurt us when we go to Capitol Hill or when we go to state capitals,” Parkinson notes. His other objectives for the association: drive quality, and “become a political and lobbying powerhouse.”

His leadership abilities were tested as governor of Kansas, a position he took in April 2009, after then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius became head of the Department of Health and Human Services.

One of his signature actions was to increase the sales tax by 1% to help fill a $400 million budget hole. This move restored a 10% cut to Medicaid he had enacted—and earned the respect of long-term care providers.

“I think sometimes people underestimate what he did to save the economy of Kansas [in 2009], especially at a time when things were going crazy,” says Cindy Luxem, CEO and president of the Kansas Health Care Association.
Parkinson also negotiated a deal between the state's provider associations to enact a provider tax—a political hot potato.

Known as humble, thoughtful and diplomatic, he is not bashful about expressing his passion for the field. Working with residents is “pure good,” he says.

“He has a very personal connection to the work that happens in long-term care,” says Martin Kennedy, former secretary of the Kansas Department on Aging.

Parkinson and his wife, Stacy, also a lawyer, built their first assisted living facility in 1996. They proceeded to build five more long-term care communities. The couple sold them to Brookdale Senior Living in 2006.

One thing of which AHCA members can be sure: Parkinson will know the issues, and if he doesn't, he'll look into them. If he has a hobby, he says, it's “thinking about the future.” He says he spends a lot of time analyzing demographics. Mining the Internet for information is part of his morning routine, which begins at 4 a.m. (Two of his favorite sites: realclearpolitics.com and rasmussenreports.com). He also runs four miles during the early-morning hours.

Washington may be an ideal setting for this policy wonk. It also will help him be closer (literally) to two of his children. His eldest, Alex, a senior at Harvard University, is majoring in government. Sam is a freshman at Boston Conservatory. He is studying to be an opera singer. His daughter, Kit, is a high school sophomore.

A Kansas native, Parkinson grew up in Wichita. His late father worked in marketing and ran local political campaigns. His mother lives in Albuquerque. He has three sisters and a brother.

Taking the helm of AHCA represents a great opportunity, he says. “I just feel incredibly fortunate to have this chance.”

Resume

1980
Graduates summa cum laude from Wichita State University

1984
Finishes first in his class at University of Kansas School of Law

1990
Elected to Kansas House of Representatives

1992
Voted into Kansas Senate

1996
Builds first assisted living facility with wife, Stacy

2006
Becomes lieutenant governor of Kansas

2009
Becomes governor after then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius takes position as secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

2010
Named president and CEO of the American Health Care Association
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