|Legal status||501(c)(4) public welfare organization|
|Products||Health insurance PPOs and HMOs|
|Subsidiaries||Health Services Foundation,|
BC and BS Foundation on Health Care,
BCBSA Services Inc
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is a federation of 35 separate United States health insurance companies that provide health insurance in the United States to more than 106 million people. It was formed in 1982 from the merger of its two namesake organizations: Blue Cross was founded in 1929 and became the Blue Cross Association in 1960, while Blue Shield emerged in 1939 and the Blue Shield Association was created in 1948.
In the healthcare insurance industry, the organization is known as "The Association" and has two offices, one in Chicago and one in Washington, D.C. The main office is in Chicago in the Illinois Center at 225 North Michigan Avenue. The BCBSA claims to control access to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield trademarks and names across the United States and in more than 170 other countries, which it then licenses to the affiliated companies for specific, exclusive geographic service areas. It has affiliated plans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, as well as licensees offering plans in several foreign countries; it also operates a nationwide health insurance program for employees of the United States federal government. The BCBSA manages communications between its members and the operating policies required to be a licensee of the trademarks. This permits each BCBSA company to offer nationwide insurance coverage even though it operates only in its designated service area.
Further information: History of insurance
|Health care in the United States|
|Government Health Programs|
|Private health coverage|
|Health care reform law|
|State level reform|
|Municipal health coverage|
Blue Cross and Blue Shield developed separately, with Blue Cross providing coverage for hospital services and Blue Shield covering physicians' services.
Blue Cross is a name used by an association of health insurance plans throughout the United States. Its predecessor was developed by Justin Ford Kimball in 1929, while he was vice president of Baylor University's health care facilities in Dallas, Texas. The first plan guaranteed teachers 21 days of hospital care for $6 a year, and was later extended to other employee groups in Dallas, and then nationally. The American Hospital Association (AHA) adopted the Blue Cross symbol in 1939 as the emblem for plans meeting certain standards. In 1960, the AHA commission was superseded by the Blue Cross Association. Blue Cross severed its ties with the AHA in 1972.
Blue Shield was developed by employers in lumber and mining camps of the Pacific Northwest to provide medical care by paying monthly fees to medical service bureaus composed of groups of physicians. In 1939, the first official Blue Shield plan was founded in California. In 1948, the symbol was informally adopted by nine plans called the Associated Medical Care Plan, and was later renamed the National Association of Blue Shield Plans.
In the 1960s, the U.S. government chose to partner with Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to administer Medicare.
In 1982, Blue Shield merged with The Blue Cross Association to form the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBS).
Prior to 1986, organizations administering BCBS were tax exempt under 501(c)(4) as social welfare plans. However, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 revoked the exemption, because the plans sold commercial-type insurance. They became 501(m) organizations, subject to federal taxation, but entitled to "special tax benefits" under IRC 833.
In 1994, BCBS changed to allow its licensees to be for-profit corporations. During 2010, Health Care Service Corporation, the parent company of BCBS in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana and Illinois, nearly doubled its income to $1.09 billion in 2010, and began four years of billion-dollar profits. In the final spending bill for FY 2015 after much lobbying since 2010, nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans continue to have special tax breaks that were understood to be threatened by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance companies are licensees, independent of the association and traditionally of each other, offering insurance plans within defined regions under one or both of the association's brands. Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers offer some form of health insurance coverage in every U.S. state. They also act as administrators of Medicare in many states or regions of the U.S.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program (FEP) is a nationwide option under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) for U.S. federal government employees and retirees, and has been part of FEHB since FEHB's inception in 1960. FEP enrolls over half of the federal workforce, with over 5 million members, making it the largest insurer of federal employees and the largest single health plan group in the world.
The association has its headquarters in the Michigan Plaza complex in the Chicago Loop area of Chicago, Illinois.
Publicly traded companies
Multi-state private companies
Single-state or regional companies
Companies outside of the United States
Blue Cross of Idaho and Regence Blue Shield of Idaho are separate companies and compete throughout the state.
Regence Blue Shield of Idaho announced a strategic alliance (not a merger) with Blue Cross North Carolina.
Though historically "Blue Cross" was used for hospital coverage while "Blue Shield" was used for medical coverage, today that split only exists for traditional health insurance plans in Pennsylvania. Two independent companies operate in central Pennsylvania, Highmark Blue Shield (Pittsburgh) and Capital Blue Cross (Central Pennsylvania) . In southeastern Pennsylvania, Independence Blue Cross (Philadelphia) has a joint marketing agreement with Highmark Blue Shield (Pittsburgh) for their separate hospital and medical plans. However, Independence Blue Cross, like most of its sister Blue Cross-Blue Shield companies, cover most of their customers under managed care plans such as HMOs and PPOs which provide hospital and medical care in one policy.
While only some members retain nonprofit status, the ones that do have been criticized for holding excessive amounts of cash or excessive executive compensation. In 2014, BC/BS of Illinois (Health Care Service Corporation) was sued over its nonprofit status, with the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice and the ruling upheld on appeal. Similar suits occurred with similar results in other states such as Oregon.
Conversions into for-profit corporations typically results in distribution of some of the assets into a charitable foundation. When Blue Cross of California was converted, it initially had no distribution, but subsequently The California Endowment and California Health Care Foundation were endowed with $3.2b. Proceeds ranged from $3.2b (California) to $1.5m (Nevada).:63
An exceptional case occurred in the Empire Blue Cross conversion, where the proceeds went to fund wage increases for union workers.
As of January 1, 1987, the federal government removed the full tax-exempt status of BCBS plans and instead created a special tax class for BCBS organizations, Internal Revenue Code ("I.R.C.") 5833. That I.R.C. category subjected BCBS plans to federal taxation but recognized the unique role BCBS plans play, unlike commercial for-profit insurers, and entitled it to special tax benefits.
GAO said since 2000, Blue Cross Blue Shield has become a behemoth in the federal employee insurance market. The company was the largest carrier in 93 percent of counties in 2000, and that proportion grew to 98 percent in 2015. Over that same time period, Blue Cross Blue Shield grew its median county market share from 58 percent to 72 percent.
BCBSA’s large program market share—66 percent of total program enrollment in 2015