Features

Kathleen Sweitzer – Maestro Health

Health care CLO layers legal into company culture

When Kathleen Sweitzer was hired at Maestro Health, she was excited to go into the office, meet her colleagues and develop the company’s legal policies and governance.

However, her first day was March 16, 2020, only a few days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. Instead of going to the office, the company’s first ever general counsel had to start building her department remotely.

“When you’re trying to drive change, it can be challenging anyways, but I was trying to do this during COVID,” Sweitzer says.

Kathleen Sweitzer | Chief Legal Officer | Maestro Health

Kathleen Sweitzer | Chief Legal Officer | Maestro Health

In addition to developing new legal structures and getting to know the company better, she also had the added task of helping the company respond to the pandemic. Being a health organization, Maestro Health has essential workers, so Sweitzer worked with the executive team to make sure everyone could work safely.

She’s also been tracking legislation to see how it will affect clients’ needs and their benefits plans. Maestro Health, headquartered in Chicago, helps companies build health and benefits plans for employees. It’s also a third-party administrator of medical and dental claims for small to mid-sized employers.

“I’ve spent most of my career in health care and really enjoy innovative thinking for health care solutions,” says Sweitzer, whose title is now chief legal officer. “I’ve worked at a large company in the past, so I liked the idea of being at a smaller nimbler company like Maestro Health that quickly adapts to new environments and takes advantage of business opportunities.”

Securing the team

Before Sweitzer was hired, Maestro Health already had a legal and compliance team, but it needed a general counsel to help build more structure. In addition to partnering with the executive team to create an employee handbook and instituting annual and mid-year employee reviews, she further developed the compliance program and expanded a privacy program.

“One of the most important priorities for me in building a team is having good business partners who drive solutions to achieve our goals,” Sweitzer says. “We’re a business that is still early stage  and growing, so I look for lawyers who are creative and not risk averse.”

Kathleen Sweitzer | Chief Legal Officer | Maestro Health

She also had to expand the information security team, which she says was a challenge because she hadn’t overseen cybersecurity before. She says one advantage to having the team report to the legal department rather than the technology department is that the separation provides checks and balances.

For example, overseeing both privacy and cybersecurity allows Sweitzer to ensure the company is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“I enjoy overseeing teams that aren’t legal or compliance because it allows me to better understand more facets of the business,” she says.

Connecting legal to business

Sweitzer collaborates with other departments at Maestro Health, which she says is rewarding. For example, she works closely with the care management and claims re-pricing teams, which represent two of Maestro Health’s fastest growing offerings. The care management team assists members who have chronic and acute conditions, while the claims repricing team helps find savings on out-of-network claims.

“Our true value proposition and focus is data analytics  and our ability to manage care,” Sweitzer says. “Finding the best value in terms of quality and cost for those claims is done with a technology solution and nurse intervention, where appropriate, which distinguishes us from others in our space.”

Kathleen Sweitzer | Chief Legal Officer | Maestro Health

In addition to overseeing the cybersecurity aspect of this work, she also ensures all contracts are compliant with privacy laws. “I really like the business aspect of this role,” she says. “It’s one of the reasons that drew me to Maestro Health.”

Her role includes being part of the executive team, which has been rebuilt over the past two years. Sweitzer advises on strategy, while making sure her team gets to share its ideas as well.

“I like for my team to meet members of executive leadership because their challenges can be lost sight of, so connecting lawyers with the business teams allows us to hear their struggles and help them develop and meet their growth goals,” she says. “That’s the theme of our leadership—build connections for growth.”

Influencing growth

When Sweitzer joined Maestro Health, the CEO at the time was a colleague of hers from Aon, where she worked for seven years.

She started at Aon, a global health insurance company, as assistant general counsel for U.S. Health Solutions and was promoted to associate general counsel three years later. Before that, she spent over 10 years at Tressler LLP, a firm based in Chicago, with the last seven years as partner. While there, she built the firm’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Life and Health Practice Group.

Kathleen Sweitzer | Chief Legal Officer | Maestro Health

Since joining Maestro Health last year, Sweitzer says she’s enjoyed the work, but wishes she could meet her team and other colleagues in person. The company is still operating remotely, but everyone is getting to know each other through virtual meetings and team lunches, she says.

“When nothing’s in place, it allows us to make it our own and that’s a fantastic opportunity,” Sweitzer says. “I like being able to build rather than inherit because you can put your own touch on the company and have an influence on the culture.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter II 2022 Edition here.

Published on: December 1, 2021

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