Michael F. Neidorff, Health Services Entrepreneur

2002 Ernst & Young entrepreneur Of The Year Awards: Michael F. Neidorff, Health Services Entrepreneur

Rovai, Ellie Harland

Michael Neidorff’s definition of an entrepreneur is someone who brings together a group of people with differing backgrounds and leads them to collective success. Indeed, it’s this special kind of leadership that Neidorff is credited with using to accomplish one of the most successful HMO turnarounds in the health-care industry.

A past president of Indiana-based Miles Laboratories, Neidorff’s business savvy was sought to consolidate several fragmented groups of Centene and meld them into one large corporation. His ralson d’etre was to turn a struggling, privately held company into a successful, publicly-traded managed health-care corporation.

Operating in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Texas, Centene Corp. is a managed care business that specializes in insuring low-income families on Medicaid and other government programs.

Neidorff is a quiet, unassuming leader who totally credits employees with Centene’s success. Traveling almost 80 percent of the time, Neidorff says he has “a tremendous group of people and a management team who keep the place running while I’m on the road.”

Centene has an innovative approach to managed care with specialized systems and technologies, a diversity in business and product lines, as well as localized services, member support programs, and knowledgeable employees with Medicaid expertise.

The son of a physician from Elkhart, Ind., Neidorff grew up in a medical family, highly aware of health-care issues. That, coupled with his business background and innovative marketing concepts, has helped increase the company’s market penetration.

The mid-1990s were very difficult times for HMOs in general, and seven of the 10 St. Louis HMOs reported red ink with accumulated losses in excess of $40 million in the first six months of 1996. Under Neidorff’s leadership, however, his HMO was one of the few that bucked the trend and made money.

The firm last year had $326.6 million in revenue.

As testimony to Neidorff’s innovation, he lowered prices to gain market share, redesigned office hours to accommodate working parents, and was the first in the country to provide an unmandated 48hour hospital stay for new mothers. These steps led to increased customer service and a jump in customer satisfaction. In addition, the high cost of unnecessary emergency room visits was virtually eliminated.

The most recent achievements for Neidorff and Centene include the opening of an executive training center; two new health plan offices in Texas; membership growth from 195,000 to more than 235,660; and the successful completion of an IPO in 2001.

In addition to all his success at work, much of Neidorff’s time is spent participating variety of philanthropic endeavors. He is a life trustee of the St. Louis Symphony and also sits on the boards of Dan Louis, the Opera Theatre, and the Boy Scouts of America. In addition, he donates a significant amount of time and effort working with the National Children’s Cancer Society. According to Neidorff, “anything that helps kids is a worthy cause.”

He goes about his charitable functions quietly, believing “you get out of life what you put into it.”

Copyright St. Louis Region Commerce and Growth Association Jul 01, 2002

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