Long history of service for Blue Cross
I noticed with interest the recent coverage of the Vermont Health Co-op’s grand opening in South Burlington. While Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont welcomes creation of a new insurance company in Vermont, we think it’s possible that some Vermonters may infer from recent reports that this new company is the first health plan to be located here or that its nonprofit structure is in some way unusual. So we thought it might be useful to remind Vermonters of the very important and historic role that Blue Cross has in our state.
Our company also was created as an instrument of health care reform. Indeed, we were created specifically to assure that dollars associated with Vermonters’ health care remained in our state. Our modern history began in the 1980s, when Vermont’s insurance commissioner and the Legislature decided to create a Vermont-based, nonprofit health benefits and financing company.
Since our creation by Vermont statute, and continuing today, we have financed billions of dollars of Vermonters’ health care here in Vermont through our nonprofit Vermont company. We exist solely to serve the health care needs of Vermonters. The vast majority of the premium dollars we collect — more than 90 percent — is returned directly to Vermont’s health care providers for the care they deliver. Our administrative expense level is far below what most insurance companies require.
Our mission and our goal are to improve the experience our members have with their health plan and their health care, and to improve their health and manage their health care costs. We have consistently ranked among the leading health plans in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. We have achieved the highest levels of accreditation by the National Council for Quality Assurance. While we always have been known for high service levels, I made caring, personal service the defining characteristic of our company when I was appointed as president and CEO in 2009. Since that time, creating outstanding member experiences has been the fundamental focus of every member of our staff, and our offices are filled with testimonials of Vermonters who have chosen to express their appreciation for the caring service we have provided during times of significant personal difficulty and stress.
This industry-leading service, financing nearly a billion dollars each year for Vermonters’ medical care, is provided by our team of about 340 highly skilled Vermonters. Their work is overseen by a board of directors comprising Vermont leaders from all walks of life, all of whom are committed to our company’s reformist vision: A transformed health care system in which every Vermonter has health care coverage and receives timely, effective, affordable care. Throughout our history, we have worked closely with Vermont’s health care providers, with large and small employers and trade organizations, with individuals and perhaps most importantly with policymakers to enact some of the most progressive health care regulation and reform in the country.
In an industry that is often characterized by its attempts to limit its risk by seeking only the youngest, healthiest, lowest-cost members, Blue Cross has always been the beacon of safety and protection for Vermonters with medical needs or who want the most secure protection for themselves and their families. We have been a contributing partner in every health care reform initiative in Vermont in the last quarter century and are engaged at all levels on the significant health care reforms under way today.
Finally, I would mention that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont works on a daily basis with scores of community-based organizations in towns and cities across our state on programs, activities and initiatives to improve the health of Vermonters. We believe this infrastructure of community activity that we have built, all focused on improving the health of Vermonters and, by extension, lowering overall health care costs, is unparalleled in our state and is broader and deeper than that of any organization of which we are aware. It makes possible work in the fields of health education, prevention, promotion and support that otherwise would not occur.
We take very seriously our historic role as a local, nonprofit, member-focused, community-minded health plan. We believe that we have an opportunity to combine the best in industry leading functionality with the personal, caring service that is possible because of our Vermont roots and scale. Perhaps all of this is framed best by the short mission statement that was created by our employees and that informs our work on a daily basis:
We are committed to the health of Vermonters, outstanding member experiences and responsible cost management for all of the people whose lives we touch.
Don George is president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont