Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is a national trade association that oversees the 38 independent, locally owned and operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies throughout the country. Together, these companies presently insure over 100 million Americans. Through each Blue Cross Blue Shield company, there are plans available for large and small businesses, individuals and families, and some states have public programs through their local Blue Cross Blue Shield company, as well.
Altogether, the network created by Blue Cross Blue Shield companies consists of contracts with more than 90 percent of hospitals and 80 percent of physicians; larger than any other insurer.
Background of the Association
The association as we now know it began at several different time periods, as Blue Cross in 1929, and in 1939, Blue Shield was formed. What later became Blue Cross was based on a system created by Justin Ford Kimball in 1929: a hospital plan for which individuals could pay in advance. The first of their trademarks created in 1934 when the blue Greek cross logo was used for a hospital program which became Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. A few years later, the American Hospital Association accepted the logo as a way to identify health insurance plans that met specific criteria, by 1972 there was no long an affiliation with the AHA.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield were initially separate entities, the former covering hospital care and the latter providing coverage for physicians. The Blue Cross Association started back in 1960, and merged with Blue Shield in 1983 to form the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Blue Shield officially began (with proper title and logo) in 1948, though the concept was taking shape for many years beforehand. Blue Shield was created in the early 20th century, as a way for employers of laborers in the Pacific Northwest to offer health care to their employees for a monthly payment. Once Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association became a combined unit, the organization adopted the independently operated companies we now know and use today.
Achievements in the Health Care Industry
Blue Cross and Blue Shield are responsible for various innovations in the health care field throughout history. From the first insured delivery and post-natal inpatient hospital stay in 1933, to influencing the formation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, Blue Cross and Blue Shield has had a hand in many medical milestones. By creating an organized system for processing claims, Blue Cross made it possible for the Medicare program to function smoothly since it was established. Blue Shield of California was the first health plan to pay for a heart transplant in 1983, and in the next few years, the National Transplant network was developed the Blue System.
Another advancement of the Association was the Technology Evaluation Center, established in the mid-80s to identify scientific specifications for evaluating health care technologies. In regards to wellness, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies throughout the country agreed to establish National Walk at Lunch Day, which encourages walking at lunch breaks to workplaces all over the U.S and Puerto Rico. The same year, the Association was approved by the federal government to create its own medical care-oriented bank, offering services in every state.
Of course, one of the main advancements is being a unique organization, with 38 local companies, each independently run in the state where it operates. No other health insurance system works like Blue Cross Blue Shield. These companies work apart from the association, and typically from each other, though there are several companies that carry plans in multiple states. This creates an unparalleled level of care, with a sense of community and emphasis on knowing your local doctors, yet overseen by one of the largest insurance entities in history. Each company works differently, some being for-profit, and others non-profit, and all have their own network and customized series of plans created specifically by that individual company in its corresponding state.