Columbia, S.C. -- Launched by a priest, a journalist and a businessman with a vision to effect affordable healthcare for South Carolinians, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina today observes its 60th anniversary.
The original unit of the company, the South Carolina Hospital Service Plan, received its charter on Dec. 11, 1946. It opened its first office in a storefront at 9 S. Main St. in Greenville, S.C. The cost of hospitalizations had risen enough that most people could not afford treatment, so grouping people under a pre-paid plan enabled larger numbers to receive care and ensured that the hospitals would be paid.
Within a few years, the hospital service plan was operating informally under the Blue Cross name that was being given to hospital plans created around the country. In 1949, the charter was issued for the separate South Carolina Medical Service Plan, a pre-paid plan for physician services, and this became known as Blue Shield. The two merged in 1973 and began operating officially under the current company name.
The company’s founding fathers were Roger Huntington of Greenville’s Hospital Benefit Association; George Andrew Buchanan, editor of the Columbia Record newspaper and later editor of The State newspaper and a professor in the journalism school at the University of South Carolina; and Monsignor George Lewis Smith, director of hospitals for the Catholic Diocese of South Carolina and president of the South Carolina Hospital Association.
The company has had a presence in Greenville since its founding, but moved its corporate office to Columbia in 1957, locating first in Five Points and moving again in 1966 to its current location on I-20 northeast of Columbia. Its landmark, 12-story office tower opened in 1971. Since then, the company has diversified and expanded its business lines through the creation of numerous subsidiaries and has 13,000 employees in 33 cities in 15 states. It has maintained an A+ Superior rating assigned by A.M. Best Co. for several years.
In addition to the core healthcare insurance, health benefits administration and government programs lines of business, the company also provides life insurance, property and casualty insurance, and information technology services through its subsidiaries. BlueCross BlueShield has one of the largest technology workforces in the state. Through its health insurance in South Carolina and its contracts involving the U.S. Department of Defense’s TRICARE health plan and the federal Medicare program, the company serves more than 20 million people nationwide.
"Our strategy is to operate as a diversified corporation offering a complementary package of products and services that support our core health and government programs," said company Chairman and CEO M. Edward Sellers. "After six decades, we’re pleased to be still offering health insurance to companies and individuals in South Carolina, while also increasing business coming from outside of the state. This is good for us and our customers, and good for South Carolina.
"We’re also happy that we can give back to South Carolina through our corporate charitable giving program and our BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, supporting access to healthcare for all South Carolinians," Sellers said.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.