The start of a legacy
It all started with a priest, a businessman and a journalist. South Carolina Monsignor George Lewis Smith, Roger Huntington of the Greenville Hospital Benefit Association, and Columbia journalist George Buchanan shared a vision. They wanted to create a nonprofit, prepaid hospital plan for the Palmetto State.
With the support of the community, the men began lobbying the General Assembly for legislation to start the company. Their vision became a reality in 1946, when the General Assembly passed legislation to create the South Carolina Hospital Service Plan — the original name of BlueCross.
Our first office was on Main Street in Greenville. In the summer of 1946, we landed a major client — Uncle Sam. We earned what would be the first of many federal government contracts, handling civilian health care payments for Veterans Administration beneficiaries.
In 1949, BlueShield — a separate company — got its charter as a nonprofit group that covered doctors' services. With the backing of the South Carolina Medical Association, BlueShield began signing up doctors to participate in the plan. A year later, BlueShield received its license from the state insurance department. It then hired BlueCross to administer, sell and promote its contracts. This was the beginning of an exciting partnership.
Coming to Columbia
In 1957, BlueCross moved from Greenville to Columbia. In 1961, BlueCross received a whole new line of business — the Federal Employee Program contract. We still hold this contract today, and have earned our place in FEP history by consistently ranking No. 1 in service among all Blue Plans.
We moved into our current headquarters in 1966 — just in time to land two huge federal contracts as the Medicare program began. When Medicare started, South Carolina hospitals moved quickly to get involved. The hospitals nominated BlueCross to administer the contract for Medicare Part A, which handles hospital services. The federal government then chose BlueShield for Medicare Part B, which handles doctors’ services.
Teaming up with Medicare in the early days would prove a great success — eventually leading to the formation of separate, subsidiary companies to handle Medicare and other federal contracts.
In 1969, the South Carolina Legislature repealed the legislation that created BlueCross and BlueShield. This made the businesses mutual insurance companies. In 1971, the two companies — BlueCross and BlueShield — merged into one company: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Innovations in health plan design
As the leading health insurer in South Carolina, BlueCross quickly developed a reputation for creating and adopting new ways of providing health coverage to our customers. We launched our first preferred provider organization (PPO) in the 1970s. In 1984, we created our first health maintenance organization (HMO), BlueChoice® HealthPlan (originally called Companion HealthCare).
Evolution in health plan design also continued into the start of the 21st century, with BlueCross leading the way. We introduced consumer-driven health plans and value-based incentive plans. These health plans promote wellness and encourage members with particular health concerns to seek appropriate care — and then reward them when they do so.
In 2009, we launched our first patient-centered medical home. A patient-centered medical home is a model of care that involves the primary care physician as the leader of a team of other health care professionals. This team works together to develop and implement specific treatment plans for each patient with a chronic condition. The goal is to improve outcomes for patients while lowering costs. Today, we have 300 PCMH locations that have served more than 450,000 members.
We continue to develop innovative care management solutions, such as integrated case management for our members with chronic disease. We also use predictive analytics to help us identify opportunities for earlier disease intervention — or even prevention.
A strategic business model
While BlueCross is known for health insurance, the corporation follows a strategic business diversification model. Since the early ’70s, BlueCross has launched subsidiary companies that offer products and services outside the health insurance arena and our state’s geographic boundaries. This includes subsidiaries for life insurance, behavioral health benefits and data services. We’ve also taken the expertise we developed early on in the government programs arena and spun off separate companies to help us build these lines of business.
We’ve done all this to create scale, which, in turn, helps us lower our administrative costs, leverage our technical capabilities and maintain our stable financial position. It also lets us be flexible and highly adaptable to all our customers — and to try new things that will help us improve patient outcomes and lower health care costs.
Now, more than 70 years later ...
Today, we have more than 16,000 employees across the nation, and we are a top employer for the state of South Carolina.
We are the only insurance company in South Carolina offering health insurance products in every consumer segment: individuals and families; small employer groups and large ones; people with Medicare; and families and children on Medicaid. We also provide administrative services to employers and government entities that want to self-fund their employee health plans.
We continue to research new products and increase our efforts to offer South Carolinians secure, cost-efficient health care coverage. We are still dedicated to serving our community. And we're looking forward to the challenges ahead.