The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) consists of 39 individual companies and organizations throughout the United States. BCBSA plans can be purchased in every state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Collectively, they insure over 100-million people. Blue Cross Blue Shield is accepted by more hospitals and doctors than any other insurer and its products can be found in all segments of the health insurance industry.
The Blue Cross brand originated in 1929 at Baylor University with a plan offering teachers three weeks of hospital care for $6 per year. As the company grew, it began offering coverage to other employee groups in Dallas and later expanded to national coverage. In the late thirties, its emblem was adopted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) for plans meeting certain requirements. By the sixties, the Blue Cross Association took the place of the AHA and in 1973 it severed the association completely.
The Blue Shield brand was developed at the start of last century with lumber and mining employers in the Pacific Northwest paying a monthly fee to a designated group of physicians. In 1939, the first true Blue Shield plan was unveiled in California. In the late forties, nine plans adopted the Blue Shield symbol and it was dubbed the Associated Medical Care Plan. It was later renamed the National Association of Blue Shield Plans. Blue Shield and the Blue Cross Association merged in 1982 to become the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Anthem formed as a spin-off of American General Insurance in the eighties. It went on to become a publicly-traded company in 2001 and three years later, it finished merging with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Late that same year, it merged with and changed its name to WellPoint. While Anthem is no longer officially a company, WellPoint still uses the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield name in eleven states.
Insurance companies are franchised under the Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield name. These companies are independent and offer their own plans in different regions of the country under one or both brands. BCBSA offers some form of coverage in every state, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. In certain states they also act as Medicare administrators providing group coverage to state and federal employees.
WellPoint is a publicly-traded company with coverage spanning 14 states. Several other BCBSA multi-state organizations include the Mid-Atlantic region’s CareFirst and the Pacific Northwest’s The Regence Group. The largest privately owned BCBSA member is Health Care Service Corporation, which operates two plans in the Midwest (Illinois and Oklahoma) and two in the Southwest (Texas and New Mexico).