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Profile of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield system

The 36 independent and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) comprise the Blue Cross and Blue Shield System, the nation's oldest and largest family of health-benefits companies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies represent the full spectrum of healthcare coverage.

Quick facts

  • With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., BCBSA has about 1,000 employees. Member Blue Plans collectively have more than 150,000 employees nationwide, ranking the Blue System as a group among the 20 largest employers in the United States.
  • Collectively the Blue Cross and Blue Shield System provides healthcare coverage for more than 100 million people — nearly one-third of all Americans — in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The Blue System offers a variety of insurance products to all segments of the population, including large employer groups, small businesses and individuals.
  • Nationwide more than 96 percent of hospitals and nearly 91 percent of healthcare professionals contract directly with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans cover more than 75 percent of all Fortune 500 companies and 85 percent of Fortune 100 companies.

Key initiatives

  • Medicare: Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies have partnered with the federal government to process Medicare claims and payments since the program's inception in 1965. Today Blue Medicare contractors handle more of the day-to-day work of paying Medicare claims than any other company. In 2011, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicare contractors processed nearly 83 percent of more than 190 million total claims from hospitals and other provider institutions (Part A) and 69 percent of the more than 990 million claims from physicians and other healthcare practitioners (Part B).
  • FEP: The Blue Cross and Blue Shield System's Federal Employee Program (FEP) — the largest privately underwritten health insurance contract in the world — enrolls more than 5.3 million federal government employees, dependents and retirees. More than half of all federal employees, retirees and their families are enrolled in the FEP Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, making it the largest single health plan group in the world.
  • BlueCard® Program — links participating healthcare providers and the independent Blue Plans across the country through a single electronic network for claims processing and reimbursement — allows Blue members access to doctors and hospitals everywhere.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Global® Core, an international network of doctors and hospitals, includes providers in more than 200 countries and territories. Members can now access inpatient and outpatient services throughout the world — at no additional cost.

Blue Cross roots

  • In 1929, Justin Ford Kimball, an official at Baylor University in Dallas, introduced a plan to guarantee school teachers 21 days of hospital care for $6 per year. Other groups of employees in Dallas soon joined the plan, and the idea quickly attracted nationwide attention. In 1933, E. A. van Steenwyk, an executive with the forerunner of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, began to identify his hospital care program with a blue-colored cross design. Other groups elsewhere in the country followed suit, and by 1939, the Blue Cross symbol was officially adopted by a commission of the American Hospital Association (AHA) as the national emblem for Plans that met certain guidelines.
  • In 1960, the commission was replaced with the Blue Cross Association, which was independent of the AHA. All formal ties with the AHA were severed in 1972. At that time, the design of the national Blue Cross symbol was revised, and a human figure was placed in the center to represent the role of the Plans in serving human need. The stylized figure is based on Leonardo DaVinci's "Vitruvian Man."