New Hire/Promotion

Senior Leadership Changes at Horizon

NJ’s largest health insurer builds member-focused leadership team with widely respected and accomplished health professionals

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey President and CEO Gary D. St. Hilaire today announced that Jennifer Velez, who has held several senior healthcare leadership positions in New Jersey’s public and private sector, and Ulises Diaz, Horizon’s vice president for Government Affairs, have been named to the company’s senior leadership team.

Velez will become senior vice president and general counsel. She succeeds Linda Willett, who is retiring from Horizon at the end of 2021 after a distinguished 12 years with the company. Diaz, who first joined the Horizon 2016, has been promoted to senior vice president of government affairs. Both appointments are effective Jan. 3, 2022.

“These two talented leaders join a team focused on making healthcare more affordable and convenient for our 3.7 million members,” said St. Hilaire. “Jen has devoted much of her professional career to improving the health and quality of life of all New Jerseyans, especially for those who have struggled to overcome health disparities. Uli has given our members a strong voice at the table when decisions affecting their health care are being made in Trenton and Washington DC. They bring deep experience and proven records of collaborating with other stakeholders to improve New Jersey’s healthcare system and I am looking forward to having them join our senior leadership team.”

“As a lifelong New Jerseyan, I am excited to join a company that has put the health and wellbeing of its members first for nearly 90 years,” Velez said. “Horizon is New Jersey’s health solutions leader and no other entity has done more to bring together diverse stakeholders to create solutions to some of health care’s greatest challenges.”

“Health care is changing faster than ever and Horizon is focused on making sure that everyone has access to affordable health care no matter who they are or where they live,” said Diaz. “By keeping the conversation focused on affordability, convenience and better quality we can ensure that New Jersey’s healthcare system remains the best in the world.”

Jennifer Velez previously served as New Jersey’s Human Services Commissioner, where for eight years and under two governors, she managed the largest state agency with budget, personnel and operational responsibility for nearly $11 billion. In 2015, she joined RWJBarnabas Health as senior vice president of Strategy and Planning. During her tenure, she introduced the community health worker model to address social determinants of health (SDoH) and collaborated with Horizon on program that has since become New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive SDoH program – Horizon Neighbors in Health. Velez also served in the Office of Governor’s Counsel under the Whitman, DiFrancesco and McGreevey administrations. She joins Horizon from Shatterproof, where as Chief Impact Officer she focused on ensuring that every person with a substance use disorder has access to evidence-based treatment.

Ulises Diaz joined Horizon in 2016 as director of Enterprise Government Affairs, and was promoted to vice president of Government Affairs in 2018. Responsible for State and Federal Government Affairs functions, Diaz previously served as vice president of Government Affairs at Verizon New Jersey and as vice president of External Affairs for United Water, where he was responsible for government and public affairs, communications and business development in the U.S., including Puerto Rico. Diaz is a former chairman of the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation where he continues to serve as a trustee.

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