Snezana Mahon first reached out to me when we were both included in an email from our HOA board about a community project. She had seen me interviewing her colleague at the 2021 Forbes Healthcare Summit and wanted to welcome me to the neighborhood by asking me out for coffee. In the world of high-power women, this was the equivalent to bringing over freshly baked muffins.
Snezana is the Chief Operating Officer at Transcarent, a new health and care experience company valued at $1.6 billion as of January 2022. With years of executive experience in the pharmacy benefit space, she is well-poised to lead the company’s recent launch of Transcarent Pharmacy Care.
At the same time, she is also a present mother who prepares meals for her family prior to leaving town for the week and invites her neighbors over for dinner on the weekends. When she and her family hosted us around Easter time, I entered an immaculate house with stuffed pastel bunnies greeting us in the entrance way and egg baskets over the mantle. She is endlessly generous with her introductions and always finds time to answer questions and offer advice.
Snezana joined me on my living room sofa over coffee one rainy Sunday morning in sneakers and pullover to share her passions surrounding her work, her life, and her commitment to supporting women in healthcare.
Why did you decide to join Transcarent after so many successful years at Express Scripts?
Last Friday was my 1-year anniversary with Transcarent, and I was doing a lot of self-reflection. I am a pharmacist by training, I spent several years in the retail setting, and then 13 years at Express Scripts. What drives me as a clinician is the consumer experience, which is not very good today. I remember standing as the pharmacist behind the counter, and patients asking me “why does it cost so much?” “how does it work?”, “I am not sure how this works”, or “why is my insurance not paying for it?” By leaving the retail setting and going to a pharmacy benefit manager, I thought I could solve the problems that patients were telling me at the pharmacy counter.
After spending over a decade trying to redesign and fix some of the cost models, it still is not working right. So, when Glen Tullman called me and told me he was building Transcarent to bring transparency and empowerment to the consumer, it was the mission that was calling me, the same one that I have been chasing from the day I became a pharmacist. We have not fixed the root cause and truly listened to the consumer. While I love the company and the legacy that I left, now that I have been exposed to the start-up community, I can truly see the impact we can have when you design care solutions with the consumer at the center.
What does Transcarent do?
Transcarent is redesigning the health and care experience that consumers of today are expecting and demanding. Healthcare has become more costly, complex, and confusing than ever before and it is not getting any better. At Transcarent, we make care more transparent and empower the consumer, by delivering better outcomes at more affordable prices for both our Member as well as the employer, who is often paying for that care.
We believe that technology can bring better care to the consumer. Companies like Airbnb and Travelocity use technology to get consumers closer to the host or a virtual travel agent. We use technology to enable our Members to get closer to providers of care and cut out the administrative friction in the middle. Just because you have an insurance card does not mean you have access to care, and it does not mean you have access to high quality care.
Currently, as a health consumer, when you call the back of your insurance card, you have no idea what is next. Your doctor just told you that you have a new condition, or you need a procedure, and you do not know where to go or what it is going to cost. We use technology to provide trusted information to our Members. We are giving them the ability to chat with a doctor within 60 seconds, schedule appointments in real time with local providers or look up cost information whether it is on the drug side or the medical side. We also provide direct access to call our health guides, which are the center of the care experience. The dedicated care advocate is just one text, chat or call away 24/7 right in your palm.
Transcarent has recently announced the launch of a pharmacy care experience. Can you tell me about it?
First, we offer a pharmacy marketplace, where our Member is able to shop for medications across pharmacies, and see the best price option across their insurance co-pay, cash, or coupons. And not just across retail pharmacies but also virtual and home delivery pharmacies like The Mark Cuban Cost Plus, Walmart or Ro pharmacy. Second, we are delivering better clinical care with an immersive and clinically integrated care experience across the medical and pharmacy benefit. And third, we are developing true value-based care contracts with employers that are based on outcomes and value and offering 100% transparency.
What do you think about big tech vs. big healthcare?
In healthcare, we have not yet addressed the consumer aspect, making it ripe for competition. The Amazons, Googles, and other large consumer-focused companies are all attempting to get into healthcare. The struggle is that you have to know about healthcare to fix healthcare, and you have to take the consumer-centric approach in the use of technology. Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical is one example of mega health care companies combining with mega consumer-centric companies. The key with any of these mergers is going to be effective integration that will determine their success.
How do you stay present for the people in your life while excelling as a COO of a startup company?
First, my father always told me that in order to be successful in life, you need to find the right partner and establish ground rules on how you are going to go through life together. When I met my husband John, I was clear that when we had kids, I was going to continue working, and that this would require equal division of home responsibilities in the life we were going to build together. Last week we just celebrated our 11-year wedding anniversary. So, a large part of my career progression and success has been because of his support and advocacy. And it was not always easy juggling work priorities as he himself is a very successful attorney and a partner at a law firm. Second, I lean a lot on family and friends for support. It takes a village to raise kids. We always say we could not have gotten to where both of us are today in our careers if it was not for my mom’s help who is the ultimate caretaker and super grandma. Our kids play soccer, baseball, basketball etc. and we often rely on family, friends, and neighbors to get the kids to where they need to go. Third, I ask myself, in totality, in this month, quarter, year, was I balanced enough? Was I there for the most critical things with the kids, husband, family, friends? For me it is that aggregate balance. It is not easy; I can tell you that.
Do you think women “can have it all?”
Absolutely. The reason I keep doing what I am doing is for my kids, especially to show my daughter that she can do it all. I cannot tell you how many Sunday nights when I am packing a bag to get on an airplane the next morning, and she says, “Mommy when I grow up, can I have that jacket so that I can give a presentation like you?” And I tell her, “You can do anything you want to do. If you want to be a lawyer or an engineer or a tech developer, or if you want to give incredible presentations to inspire other women, you can do it and the opportunity will be there for you.” When she says, “Other mommies don’t travel that much,” I tell her that “Mommies can and do travel.”
I also want to inspire other young pharmacists. Never did I think as someone who started as a retail pharmacist at Walgreens that I would be doing what I am doing right now. I do believe women can have it all, you just need to love what you do, believe in yourself, and surround yourself with an ecosystem that supports you.
How do you promote women at Transcarent?
When I think specifically about the incredible women at Transcarent, we have women across our executive leadership team, including the CFO, General Counsel, Chief of Staff. We have women running digital products, UX design, and operations. Even on the technology development side, we specifically hire women. That is a testament to our CEO and our board who strongly believe and encourage that women should have a seat at the table. We continue to strive for diversity of thought, background, experiences across the company and it’s so great to be part of an organization that supports and empowers women.
Anything else you would like to share with readers who want to follow similar paths?
I tell young women all the time to always be yourself and bring your whole self to anything you do. Tremendous opportunities opened themselves because I was curious, because I asked a lot of questions, because I was vocal. When I look back on my career I took chances and said yes to every opportunity that came my way. For example I didn’t have a lot of experience in Medicare when I started working in Medicare Advantage but I jumped in and learned a lot. The next call came about running integration and I didn’t have a lot of experience in integration. And at the time I thought, should I take on this new role? But in hindsight, I am so glad that I did. Be open and take risks. Complacency is the biggest barrier to success. Do not be comfortable. Be uncomfortable. If you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing, you are not developing.