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From Las Vegas to the Hoosier State: Meet UnitedHealthcare’s New CEO in Indiana and Kentucky

Opportunity knocked for Kim Sonerholm earlier this summer with a life changing move. She replaced the desert of Las Vegas for the lush green rolling hills of Indiana as the new CEO for the Indiana and Kentucky commercial health plan.

With more than 25 years of experience in health care with multiple sales, account management and network roles, Kim is looking forward to managing and developing the health plans in the Bluegrass and Hoosier states.

She recently answered a few questions about her new role with UnitedHealthcare and the adjustment to life in the Midwest.

How has the transition to Indianapolis gone for you and your family?

My husband Chad and I have found Indianapolis to be filled with kind, welcoming people who make you feel at home. Many people have gone out of their way to assist us during the transition and have helped us become acclimated to a new part of the country. Even though we have been here a short time, we already feel like this is our home and we are part of the deep culture so apparent here in Indy.

What are your responsibilities in your new role?

I am responsible for the performance of the health plan for our commercial business. This includes identifying ways we can take the mission of our larger organization of helping people live healthier lives and making the health care system work better into actionable and meaningful initiatives based upon the needs of our clients. 

Our organization has tremendous assets and resources across UnitedHealthcare and Optum. We are evaluating how to deploy them in our health plan to deliver affordable products and solutions focused on quality of care.

What are your goals in this position?

Our mission here in the Indiana/Kentucky health plan is to listen to our customers and develop distinct offerings that exceed the consumer’s expectations. Our goal is to become a nimble and agile health plan that is able to meet the needs of our customers, brokers and provider partners. We are focused on how do we live our culture every day in the community while making a difference in the lives of those we serve here in Indiana and Kentucky.  

What is the biggest health problem facing residents in both states?

Affordability. The cost of receiving medical treatment has risen over the course of the last several years — and is not reflecting the cost of living or doing business in either state. There are many challenges related to living healthier lives facing us, but they are secondary to the cost of accessing medical care in these communities. There are states with more health challenges that have more affordable care so you cannot always directly attribute the cost of care to the health ranking of a population.

What is your managing style?

I am part of the team and value the ideas of everyone, as we shape our vision collectively as a group. I believe it is important for me to demonstrate and cast a shadow for our team that represents our culture. It is important to me that we show integrity in everything we do and we have compassion for our members and co-workers. I believe our team is the most important asset we have as a health plan and investing in our employees will drive successful outcomes. 

What has impressed you the most since taking over as CEO?

I have been impressed by the resources and capabilities we have as an enterprise. It has been more apparent to me since coming to a new market and having the opportunity to meet many new people across the organization. I have always been aware of what we can do as an enterprise, but transitioning to a different team has opened my eyes to the breadth of our innovation. 

What is the most recent book you read and why?

Grit,” by Angela Duckworth. I read it a while back and it resonated with me. I recently read it again as many of the concepts outlined in this book apply to me, not only in my professional life, but also as a mom of two daughters who are in college and, at times, need the push to keep moving forward. 

What do you do in your spare time away from the office?

I enjoy walking and finding new spots to go whether I am here in Indy or another city. When we walk, we get the chance to see things we probably would pass right by if we were driving. So we have found really great restaurants and shops we would have never sought out if we had not walked past them. We really love the walking paths built throughout Indianapolis, which are well maintained and easy to access.