Our Staff

The New Jersey Association of Health Plans is a non-profit association representing the leading Commercial and Medicaid health care plans in the state which cover nearly seven million New Jersey residents. Our members include: Aetna, AmeriGroup, AmeriHealth, CIGNA, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, UnitedHealth Group and WellCare.

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Pictured: Maria Friberg, Wardell Sanders, Beth Yake

Wardell Sanders, JD, President

082-5x5As President of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, Ward leads the state trade association that represents the major health plans in New Jersey, including all five Medicaid health plans. He became President of NJAHP in October of 2006.

Ward is a recognized expert on health-care policy, speaking to national and regional audiences. In 2014, Inside New Jersey and Star Ledger writers named Ward one of New Jersey’s 100 most influential residents. He also has been named on a number of other New Jersey power lists. He has received the Community Health Law Project’s 2015 “Ann Klein Advocate Award,” the New Jersey Mental Health and Addiction Agencies 2016 “Leadership in Health Care Award,” and the Hemophilia Association of New Jersey’s 2017 “Humanitarian Award.”

Prior to coming to the NJAHP in 2006, Ward served for 15 years in State government positions. He was the Executive Director of the New Jersey Individual Health Coverage Program Board and the New Jersey Small Employer Health Benefits Program Board, the two State agencies charged with regulating the individual and small group health benefits markets, which then covered about one million New Jersey residents. Ward began his State service as a Deputy Attorney General in the New Jersey Division of Law.

As President of the NJAHP, Ward was appointed by Governor Corzine to both the Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission and the Health Care Access Study Commission, by Senate President Codey to the Medical Care Availability Task Force, and by Governor Murphy to the State’s Restart and Recovery Council’s health care committee.

Ward is a 1991 graduate of the Villanova University School of Law, where he was an editor of the Villanova Environmental Law Journal and was the student commencement speaker. Ward is also a 1984 graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he received his BA in Government. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars, the New Jersey Bar Association, and is a member of the Bar Association’s Insurance Benefits Committee.

From 1984 to 1988, prior to earning his law degree, Ward worked in Washington, D.C. for the International Center, a human rights and foreign policy research organization.

Ward lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, with his wife and two children. Ward was elected five times to Lambertville’s City Council and served from 2008 through 2022.  He also has served on a number of local bodies, including the Planning Board, the South Hunterdon Regional High School Municipal Work Group, and the Environmental Commission. Ward is also involved local youth basketball, serving as a volunteer coach and referee since 2005.

Alex Arnold, Director of Government Affairs

082-5x5As Director of Government Affairs for the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, Alex will handle legislative and regulatory affairs for the state trade association that represents the major health plans in New Jersey.

Before joining the NJAHP, Alex served as a Public Affairs Specialist for Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G). In this role, Alex worked closely with local, county, and state-elected officials, as well as business leaders, policy makers, and influential members of the community to effectively communicate and promote PSE&G’s projects and initiatives. Prior to PSE&G, Alex served as an aide to Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. for nearly three years, during which time he worked with policy, communications, grants, and constituents.

Alex is a 2018 graduate of Rutgers University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and minor in Labor Studies, while attaining Summa Cum Laude honors. Alex also completed the Undergraduate Associates Program in Politics and Government from the Eagleton Institute of Politics, during which time he interned for Governor Phil Murphy, then-Assemblyman Jack Citarelli, and then-Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck.

Alex lives in Freehold, New Jersey, with his wife and daughter.

Maria Friberg, Business Manager 

mariaMaria Friberg serves as the Business Manger for the New Jersey Association of Health Plans. Maria came to the Association in 2004. As Business Manager, Maria is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Association. Specifically, she provides financial reporting and budget development, as well as administering payroll and accounts payable. Maria is also the Associations point of contact for its Associate Members.

Maria has two sons, and resides with her husband Robert in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Beth Yake, Administrative Assistant

bethBeth Yake has been a part of the NJAHP staff since 2007. She is the administrative assistant to the President and Vice President and her various duties include coordinating meetings, handling phone inquiries, doing special projects and other various administrative duties.