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WHA Leadership

Garry Maisel garry

President and Chief Executive Officer

Garry Maisel's commitment to community is evident in his every action as President and CEO of Western Health Advantage (WHA).

As President, Garry has provided leadership at WHA from its start-up in 1996 to current recorded annual revenue of more than $800 million. WHA focuses on improving healthcare access and affordability and is known for developing innovative programs to expand coverage to the uninsured.

The Company's growth and quality earn it a regular spot on the Sacramento Business Journal's annual list of Top 50 Fastest-Growing Companies, most recently in 2015. Garry leads WHA’s growing workforce, which provides award-winning customer service to more than 135,000 members in the Sacramento and North Bay Regions.

In addition to positioning WHA to improve access to healthcare, he also believes in leveraging his organization to support various non-profit organizations and community causes. An active community board member, Garry currently lends his expertise and experience to:

Garry holds a degree in finance and economics from California State University Sacramento and has accumulated 26 years of experience in healthcare plus 10 years in the banking and finance industry, including time as the Chief Financial Officer for a regional community bank. Garry has received numerous awards, including the Sacramento Metro Chamber 2010 Businessman of the Year Award; the 2011 Individual Arts Leadership Award from the Sacramento Arts & Business Council; the 2014 Executive Leadership Award from Community Link Capital Region, and the 2015 Humanitarian of the Year Award from UCP Sacramento.

Whether he is providing quality healthcare coverage to employers and individuals or expert counsel to non-profit organizations, Garry Maisel is perfectly suited to lead an organization committed to the people and businesses of the Sacramento and North Bay Regions.

rita rueckerRita Ruecker

Chief Financial Officer

As the Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, Rita Ruecker has provided financial and operational leadership for Western Health Advantage since its start-up in 1997. Rita's insightful direction has led Western Health Advantage to grow substantially over the past 20 plus years.

Ms. Ruecker has over 30 years of experience in healthcare. Before Western Health Advantage, she worked in public accounting in the healthcare division servicing health plans, hospital systems and various healthcare companies.

Ms. Ruecker was honored as Sacramento’s CFO of the Year in 2011 by the Sacramento Business Journal.  She proudly serves as the Treasurer of the Sacramento Ballet and participates in many community benefit activities. 

Ms. Ruecker is a Certified Public Accountant and has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jeff CinciarelliJeff Cinciarelli

Chief Sales Officer

As the Chief Sales Officer, Jeff oversees WHA’s Sales and Major Accounts and provides market leadership as a key member of the senior management team. He supervises a 21-person sales team, handling nearly 135,000 members from private and public sector employer groups as well as individual and family accounts both on and off the state exchange – totaling nearly $800 million in gross premiums. Jeff ensures that the highest level of service is provided to WHA employers and members.

Jeff brings to the position 25 years of experience in the health insurance industry, with over 20 years in senior management in the greater Sacramento area. He has experience from both sides of the health plan sector: 20 years working with a health plan and five years with local brokerage firms.

Prior to joining WHA, Jeff served as the Area President for Sacramento within Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., a multi-billion dollar global insurance brokerage and risk management services organization that provides insurance services to clients worldwide. Before that and for more than two decades, Jeff was with Health Net, serving as Vice President of Commercial Products and Labor & Trust, where he built strong relationships with employer groups and brokers and offered a strategic approach to health coverage. Jeff’s product expertise includes knowledge on a full range of health care products, including Fully Insured, Self Insured, PPO, Medicare, and Specialty Products.

Rebecca Downing

Chief Legal Officer

As the Chief Legal Officer, Rebecca Downing has provided legal and compliance leadership for Western Health Advantage since 2005. Ms. Downing is responsible for the Legal, Compliance and HIPAA privacy programs of the company.

Before Western Health Advantage, Rebecca was General Counsel to Landmark Healthcare, Inc., a multi-state complementary/alternative care, managed care company. Ms. Downing was an associate attorney at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, and served as Executive Director of the California Chiropractic Association.

Rebecca served as the Chair of the Enforcement Committee of the Dental Board of California from 2009-2012.

Ms. Downing graduated from the University of Southern California Law School and received her Bachelor's Degree from California State University, Sacramento. She has been a practicing attorney for over 20 years.

Glenn HamburgGlenn Hamburg

Chief Information Officer

As the Chief Information Officer, Glenn is responsible for IT Infrastructure, IT Engineering, IT Application Development, IT Security and Business Intelligence Operations.

With more than 25 years’ experience in the managed care and technology industries, Mr. Hamburg garnered a broad industry perspective from his many leadership positions in consulting, health plans, software development and health care services organizations.

Glenn served as WHA’s Chief Client Services Officer for five years and was appointed Chief Information Officer in early 2019.

Prior to WHA, Mr. Hamburg worked at Blue Shield of California, where he was Senior Director, Systems & Solutions.  He has also held executive positions at Dell Services, UST Global and TriZetto. He was a founding member of TriZetto, helping to shape the company to one of the nation’s premier payer software and service providers. He was Vice President of TriZetto’s Payer BPO, providing a complete line of administrative and implementation services to large and small health plans in commercial, self-funded, Medicaid and Medicare lines of business. He has also held several leadership roles in consulting, business integration, knowledge management, product management, mergers and acquisitions.

Mr. Hamburg has a Master’s Degree in Management Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

rick heronRick Heron

Chief Experience Officer

Rick Heron joined Western Health Advantage's senior management team in 2005 to develop and lead the organization's marketing and community relations efforts, holding roles as Director of Community Relations and Chief Marketing and Brand Officer.  Heron is responsible for coordinating all of the organization's external affairs, including advertising, marketing, communications, branding, charitable outreach, public affairs and member services. Since March 2019, in his current role as Chief Experience Officer, Heron is the strategic leader representing WHA’s customers and driving excellent customer experience across the entire organization.

Before joining WHA, Heron was regional marketing manager for America Online (AOL). Prior to AOL, he spent 15 years in professional sports, holding management positions in sales, community relations and marketing with the Sacramento Kings/Monarchs/Knights and the San Francisco Giants.

As a leading local healthcare company, WHA strongly supports making a difference in the greater Sacramento community.  Leading this effort, Heron has worked extensively with neighborhood groups, school districts, business leaders and elected officials on an array of projects intended to benefit and strengthen our community.  Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors for KVIE, the local PBS station, and American Leadership Forum.

Heron has a bachelor's degree from UC Davis, and a master's degree from the University of San Francisco. He is a member of, and also certified by, Boston College's Carroll School of Management Center for Corporate Citizenship.

Keith Howes

Chief Human Resources Officer

As the Chief Human Resources Officer, Keith Howes oversees all aspects of Human Resources, Training & Development, Facilities and Safety operations at WHA. Keith brings to the position over 30 years of experience in the Human Resources field, including working in private, public, educational and non-profit sectors. He is a strong Human Resources/Training leader with specialization in the areas of Leadership Development and Customer Service.

Since joining WHA in 2012 when WHA had just over 100 employees, Keith has overseen WHA’s growth to more than 300 employees (as of 2018). WHA has also consistently been recognized as a finalist in the Sacramento Business Journal’s annual competition for “Best Places to Work” (winning in 2014) and “Healthiest Employer” (winning in 2014 and 2017).

Keith has been a certified facilitator with the FranklinCovey and Blanchard organizations for various leadership and customer service programs. He designs and delivers leadership development programs and is an expert in teaching and inspiring excellence. Keith builds upon a business’s current people programs and organizational development strategies, enhancing both organizational and workforce capabilities.

Keith holds the prestigious SHRM-SCP certification (Society for Human Resources Management–Senior Certified Professional), which is for those with senior HR roles and management experience. Keith has a B.S. in Human Resources Development from Brigham Young University-Hawaii, where he researched, designed and received approval for that specific major.

dr. don huffordDr. Don Hufford

Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Hufford has been the Chief Medical Officer of Western Health Advantage since the inception of the health plan in 1997.  During that time WHA has grown from a simple idea to a 130,000 member health plan.  As CMO, Dr. Hufford has responsibilities for all clinical aspects of the health plan including Quality Improvement, Health Promotion, Disease Management, Case Management, Credentialing and Clinical Resources.

Dr. Hufford has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor at The University of Southern California, Price School of Public Policy.  He has taught a course on ‘Quality Improvement in Healthcare’ for the Masters of Healthcare Administration Program.  Dr. Hufford also sits on the Advisory Board for the USC Sacramento Center.

Prior to coming to Western Health Advantage, Dr. Hufford was the Managed Care Medical Director and a practicing physician at Mercy Medical Group in Sacramento.

Dr. Hufford is a Board Certified Family Physician who trained at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and is a graduate of The Chicago Medical School and University of Southern California (undergraduate).