Neary 20 years ago, Hank Watson walked onto the varsity baseball team at the University of Pennsylvania.

Though he jokes the Quakers will take just about anyone “willing to catch bullpens in Northeastern springs,” the tryout wasn’t without risk. But risk is something Watson has become quite comfortable with since then, building a business career spanning healthcare acuity levels, geographies and ever-shifting payment strategies.

As chief of development for American Health Partners, Watson has spearheaded the company’s transformation from  a traditional post-acute provider to one with a Medicare Advantage arm working in 10 states.

Watson slid into the position after stints as a healthcare policy insider, a private equity investor and vice president of Unity Physician Partners, which morphed into American Health Partners’ American Health Plans brand. 

“I wanted to get closer to the action,”  Watson says, recalling his high-level investment viewpoint. “One thing, five, 10 years ago, was very clear: Providers were going to have to learn to take risk.”

What started as a program for residents of American Health Communities’  29 facilities continues to gain speed. American Health Plans’ provider-owned ISNPs offer seven options for more than 30 organizations.

“The ISNP transitioned us and our nursing homes from a custodial Medicaid provider to the owner of the model of care and all the Medicare premium associated with that role,” Watson says. “It allows us to be proactive caregivers to our residents.”

While decisions about care continue to be made at the bedside, it’s Watson taking options to management teams across the South and West, selling them on quick access and opportunity and inking the CMS applications and network contracts.

“He has the unique ability to simplify a very complicated topic and explain how the provider-owned ISNPs financial model works for the nursing home owner-operator,” says American Health Partners COO Robin Bradley. “He’s masterful at connecting the dots on both the financial and clinical benefits of the ISNPs.”

Watson’s efforts are informed by his grandmother’s care in a terrific Alzheimer’s program. He’s mindful that others who deserve the same care don’t receive it because of cost. He aims to create solutions for high-need, low-income residents that also benefit caregivers.

“The opportunity to elevate the industry is really unique,” Watson says. “It’s exciting for me to do that from within the industry and keep the value with the providers.”

Part of what brought Watson to Unity and American Health Partners was the chance to return to middle Tennessee ‘s  “ecosystem of entrepreneurial healthcare.” Now he, wife Molly and their four children, ages 4 to 11, are building their own ecosystem just south of American Health headquarters.

“We’ve got a little piece of property with more animals on it than we should,” Watson says. “That was our COVID impact. We’ve always had chickens and dogs and cats, but the time spent at home resulted in a barn filled with goats and a mini cow and some pigs and piglets, a couple ducks, some bees.”

Much of the upkeep has fallen to Molly as Watson eases back into travel, working on additional joint ventures with “non-stop” interest in ISNPs over the last few months.

His time off is filled with children’s dance recitals and, yes, baseball. Today, he’s a baseball commissioner for the nearby College Grove Recreation Center, where spring games are considerably warmer.

Resume: 2006, Graduates from University of Pennsylvania; 2006-2009, Works as healthcare consulting research analyst for The Lewin Group in Washington,  D.C.; 2010, Becomes VP of private equity for EDG Partners; 2010-2011, Serves as board member, Leadership Health Care – Nashville Health Care Council; 2011, Earns MBA at Vanderbilt University; 2013, Named Interim COO for EDGs’ Peak Health Solutions; 2014, Becomes VP of corporate development for Unity Physician Partners; 2016, Named VP of corporate development at American Health Partners; 2019, Promoted to chief development officer at American Health Partners