Enhabit CEO Barb Jacobsmeyer Is The Leader She Never Set Out To Become

Enhabit Inc. (NYSE: EHAB) CEO Barb Jacobsmeyer is a lifelong leader who never set out to be one.

When she gives her best advice to younger people, she draws directly from the path that brought her to the helm of one of the largest home health companies in the country.

“My best advice would be to focus on doing a really good job in your current job,” Jacobsmeyer told Home Health Care News. “Because I do see so much looking at what somebody wants to be – next year, in two years, in three years. If that’s the sole focus, you’re going to lose focus on just doing a really good job.”


Jacobsmeyer has followed that logic – unknowingly at first – throughout her career.

She began in health care as a physical therapist (PT). From St. Louis originally, her husband’s career as a U.S. Marine took them to the small town of Warsaw, North Carolina. Following that move, she was taking care of spinal cord injury and stroke patients at a rehab hospital in nearby Fayetteville.

In a sign of things to come, she got a tap on her shoulder from her boss to become the new therapy supervisor just one year out of PT school, despite having co-workers that were almost exclusively older than her. She took that job, but then moved back to St. Louis when her father became ill.


Though she enjoyed the clinical and management aspects of her job, Jacobsmeyer decided at that point that she wanted to get back in with the patients – the part of the job she really loved – and go full clinical again.

That led her to a skilled nursing facility. Six months into that job she got another tap on the shoulder. Her new boss wanted her to be the the rehab therapy manager.

“Then I decided I needed to go back to school to get my master’s degree in health service management,” Jacobsmeyer said. “I knew all the clinicals, but I hadn’t even taken an accounting class. I needed to go and actually take business classes.”

She served in that role for a few years and then yet again had the urge to get back into the clinical side. She took a job at an acute care hospital, and yet again, six months into that role was asked to take the rehab manager job.

“I thought, ‘Why do they keep asking me to do it?’” she said. “I just thought I would always be a clinician.”

Jacobsmeyer now understands why they kept asking her to take leadership positions. And that forms the basis for her philosophy of not letting future aspirations get in the way of the job you are doing today.

“I look back and think about how I was tapped for so many opportunities,” she said. “And it’s because I never really thought about the next one. I just wanted to do a good job, and that served me well.”

With this view in mind, Jacobsmeyer acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with ambition, a quality that she also brings to her professional and personal lives.

Her first major leadership role was as the COO of an acute care hospital. After that, she was named the CEO of a hospital owned by HealthSouth, which later became Encompass Health (NYSE: EHC). In time, she ascended to regional director, and eventually the national EVP of operations.

Before Jacobsmeyer accepted the CEO spot at Enhabit, she was likely on a list of potential succeeders to Encompass Health’s current CEO, Mark Tarr, she said.

Ultimately, though, Jacobsmeyer saw Enhabit as an attractive opportunity. It brought her to a new setting – from inpatient rehab hospitals to home health and hospice – and she felt the home was the more future-forward site of care.

Hockey, golf, marathons and patient care

Believe it or not, Jacobsmeyer’s life involves more than M&A, recruiting and retention, Medicare payment cuts and Medicare Advantage (MA) negotiations.

In her free time, she plays golf. She enjoys hockey – namely the St. Louis Blues. She also runs marathons. She has a half marathon coming up in the mountainous South American region of Patagonia.

“We laugh at the office because they’ll be like, ‘Did you get in a long run this weekend? Because when I do one, I come back with all of these ideas,” Jacobsmeyer said. “It’s great. It’s just you and your head.”

Jacobsmeyer at Home Health Care News’ FUTURE conference in September

When thoughts of work are keeping her up at night, she reminds herself that overthinking is futile when she has a long run ahead of her in the morning.

One of Jacobsmeyer’s self-reported strengths as a leader is her honesty. She’s trying to maintain that, even as her role becomes more public-facing.

“All the interaction with the investment community – most of my career was spent on the operations side,” she said. “So that external-facing component has probably been the biggest change.”

From the get go, Jacobsmeyer has had to strategize around industry headwinds. This is not an easy, or even normal, time to be a home health leader.

Just before Enhabit officially spun off from Encompass Health, a highly unfavorable proposed payment rule in home health was released for 2023. This summer, Enhabit employees took PTO at an unprecedented rate as well, as they finally had a chance to take vacation after COVID infections began to subside in much of the country.

All the while, Jacobsmeyer has also been sitting down with MA plans to negotiate for better home health pay rates.

With that all going on, she has little time to look ahead — aside from strategizing for Enhabit’s future, forecasting growth or choosing the best technology investments.

Right now it’s about doing a good job. But if the common theme of Jacobsmeyer’s life takes hold once again, she’ll be back taking care of people soon.  

“When I’m done, I would love to golf. I want to get involved with some charities,” she said. “I know it sounds weird, but I also hope I can be that support – my mother is 85, I have aunts that I adore. I’m hoping they live to 100. I wouldn’t mind being that person that helps them to doctor’s appointments and can be that resource that so many of our elderly struggle to find.”

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