Profile: Doug Burr

Doug Burr, SVP, Health Care Navigator
Doug Burr, SVP, Health Care Navigator

Who knows if it's rooted in Bedford, MA, where he grew up.

Perhaps it came from watching his mother care for disabled adults and special needs children. Maybe while he was a young runner and unofficial assistant to his father, the big-hospital pharmacist.

One thing is sure: Doug Burr has few peers, if any, in how he studies and calculates ways to better care for people, and get policy right.

Earlier this year, he became long-term care's $90 million man when he alone pointed out a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services miscalculation for the proposed fiscal 2017 nursing home pay rate. The $1.35 per patient day he discovered earned rare acknowledgement from CMS — and gave providers a windfall worth millions of dollars in the final rule.

“That is Doug at his finest,” beams Larry Lane, vice president of government relations for Genesis HealthCare and a fellow member of the American Health Care Association's Finance Committee. “His diligence has helped everyone along the way, not just his own company.”

“There's nobody more passionate about this business than he is,” adds Joe Lubarsky, another fellow reimbursement specialist. “He's a businessman, researcher and analyst, all wrapped up into one, which you typically don't find.”

Once ubiquitous at conferences, Burr now works almost exclusively from home due to a mysterious illness that has taken him out of the public eye for four years. 

By process of elimination, he has been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Pain experts rank its flare-ups “between childbirth and amputation,” Burr notes. His autonomic nervous system is “so messed up,” he could be freezing on a scorching day or seated in an ice bath, dripping sweat. 

He no longer drives because of the 14 medications he takes three times a day. Some afternoons the “Type A personality” is forced to curl up on the floor, hoping abdominal and other pains subside.

Doug Burr is 49 years old.

Despite dozens of frustrating scans, biopsies, blood tests and trips to clinics, he has continued teacher-like oversight of a devoted team as Senior Vice President of Finance, Reimbursement & Government Relations for Health Care Navigator.

He is hoping to attend this month's AHCA annual meeting in Nashville. It would be a first since symptoms struck in Tampa in 2012.

His only sibling, twin David, is a chef, but does not suffer similar effects. Growing up in a house so popular with neighbor kids, David was the reed player while Doug was the strings (“everything from violin to bass”) and brass (“everything but trombone”) player.

His music involvement now consists of singing in the church choir. A devout Lutheran, he met his wife, Tracie, through mutual church activities while at college. She now works part-time for him and is his chief driver and source of support, he says.

Their sons (Josh, 20, and Zack, 13) fill out the immediate family, a unit he calls “my inspiration.”

“I want [Josh and Zack] first to know redemption through faith in Jesus,” Burr says. “I want them to have a heart that cares for and about others. I want them to see, understand and enjoy hard work and to be passionate about the work they do by putting everything they have into whatever it is they decide to do.”

It would seem they couldn't have a better role model.