Blue Cross

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska plans to form a company called GoodLife that would separate its insurance company from its non-insurance businesses.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska plans to create a new parent company called GoodLife Partners Inc. to enhance its efforts to reduce health care costs and improve its clients’ health.

The change, subject to approval by the Nebraska Department of Insurance and Blue Cross policyholders, would separate its insurance company from its non-insurance businesses under the new GoodLife mutual holding company, meaning it would be owned by Blue Cross policyholders.

The existing insurance company, still under the Blue Cross brand, would convert from mutual ownership to a stock company, 100 percent owned by GoodLife, a name derived from the state’s “The Good Life” motto.

GoodLife also would own ventures including Blue Cross’ Think Aksarben clinic and a business incubator called Genesys Innovations, plus investments it already has made or would make in the future.

The change would not affect existing health plan contracts, benefits or monthly premiums, Blue Cross said in letters to be mailed today to policyholders.

The same board of directors and staff would operate the insurance company and the holding company, with no changes in salaries, said Steve Martin, president and chief executive.

Martin said in an interview that the holding company structure would let the nonprofit company be “more nimble and adaptive” in investing in and developing health care-related businesses.

“Our whole mission is to improve health care, make it more efficient, higher quality, higher consumer satisfaction, un-complicate health care and lower the costs,” Martin said. “To do that, we need to be a little more than an insurance company. ... I believe we can solve this through innovation.”

The non-insurance side of the company would have access to some new sources of capital, he said, and could ally with other companies without merging them into the insurance business. Money from one side could be shifted to the other, he said, but any such transfers would be subject to Department of Insurance scrutiny.

Some current Blue Cross ventures would move right away to the non-insurance side of the holding company, Martin said, and others would move later to avoid some tax-related costs.

Close regulation of the insurance business means that it can be difficult to make investments or start new ventures. Under its current structure, he said, Blue Cross has missed some opportunities.

In recent years, Blue Cross has sought ways to encourage its clients to get better primary care and to find systems that avoid mistakes, coordinate medical care and keep costs down while providing high-quality care, he said.

Several other Blue Cross affiliates have adopted mutual holding company forms, and non-Blue insurance companies have done the same, including Ameritas Life in Lincoln and the former Guarantee Mutual Life Co. in Omaha.

Guarantee Mutual was sold to a larger company, but Martin said there are no such plans for Blue Cross.

The Department of Insurance will hold a Jan. 22 public hearing on Blue Cross’ reorganization plan, as required by state law. The department oversees insurance companies, in part to make sure they have the money to pay claims and other obligations.

If the department approves the plan, Blue Cross policyholders would vote March 26 at their annual meeting. Approval requires a two-thirds vote of eligible policyholders.

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Blue Cross process

Public hearing, 10 a.m. Jan. 22, Room 534, Gold’s Building, 1033 O St., Lincoln. Send written material and speaker requests by Jan. 18 to the Nebraska Department of Insurance, 941 O St., Lincoln 68501, or call 402-471-2201.

Blue Cross annual policyholder meeting: March 28.

Who can vote: Individual plan holders; fully insured groups (one policyholder per group); clients with Medicare supplement, Advantage and Part D plans; and stop-loss insurance holders. People in self-insured employer plans are not eligible.

Effective date, if approved: July 1.

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