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HL20: Bruce Bodaken—Survival and the Need for Continuous Change

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2012

The Blue Shield that Bodaken is leaving is quite different from the struggling insurer he took over in 2000. That company had around one million members and made its payroll by pulling money out of its limited surplus funds. "It simply wasn't going to survive," he explains.

Today the insurer is a dominant player in the California market. Membership has tripled, its surplus has grown to billions of dollars, and the company is on solid financial ground.

When asked to name his biggest accomplishments Bodaken points to the company's journey toward helping to make sure everyone has access to affordable healthcare, including prevention and wellness services. "All of us have a responsibility to be a part of the system and we need to make a way for those who can't afford to get care," he states.

And he is pleased with the results the 2% pledge has produced so far. Over the years Blue Shield has been roundly criticized for its steep rate hikes and when the pledge was announced, it was greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism by just about everyone. But in 2011, the company paid out around $475 million, including $450 million to members, $20 million to help provider groups form accountable care organizations, and $5 million to the Blue Shield Foundation and community grants.

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