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Independence Blue Cross Celebrates 70 Years Of Service In Southeastern Pennsylvania

Building the health of its customers and community for decades

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- This month, Independence Blue Cross (IBC), southeastern Pennsylvania's leading health insurer, turns 70 years old. While health insurance has changed dramatically since the organization's inception in 1938, experts agree that access to affordable, quality health care remains a top priority for Americans and was a key consideration when millions cast their vote last week for president.

Known then as the Associated Hospital Service of Philadelphia, the organization opened its doors November 7, 1938, under the leadership of E. A. Van Steenwyk, who founded Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and came to Philadelphia to expand the Blue Cross brand. In rented quarters at 1429 Walnut Street, Van Steenwyk and four associates comprised the entire original staff. They sat at desks borrowed from the University of Pennsylvania and used office equipment bought with a small portion of a $30,000 loan from the Community Chest, now the United Way, to finance a new health plan. At the close of its first year, the health plan had 170,000 members.

Today, 70 years later, IBC and its affiliates insure nearly 3.4 million members nationwide and employ 8,300 people throughout the region. Today, the company offers dozens of different health insurance plans, a complete range of wellness programs, and groundbreaking initiatives to save customers money. What hasn't changed is IBC's continued commitment to innovation, focus on keeping members healthy, and deep dedication to the community. Today, IBC continues to evolve as the health care industry is further redefined by the Internet, the aging Baby Boomer population, remarkable advances in medicine, steadily rising health care costs, an increasing number of uninsured, and ever more informed consumers.

"At Independence Blue Cross there is an overwhelming passion for excellence and innovation to improve the health of its members and strengthen the well-being of our community," said M. Walter D'Alessio, chair of IBC's board. "IBC's impact grew enormously under Fred DiBona, who led the company through the early 1990s managed care revolution and strengthened IBC's commitment to serving its customers and community. That commitment moved to an even higher level under current President and CEO Joe Frick, who is leading the company as the country faces a possible second revolution in health care. After 70 years, the company's success continues to be driven by its dedication to responding swiftly to meet the needs of customers, members, physician and hospital partners, and associates."

Said Joseph A. Frick, president and CEO of IBC: "Providing access to high quality, affordable health care is what we do every day because the health and well-being of our members and our community is our number one priority."

"Our dedicated associates work each and every day to identify new cutting edge ways to improve the ease and speed of doing business with us, deliver innovative initiatives that enable members to take control of their own health, and help our customer hold the line on health care costs," said Frick. "I'm proud to be part of an organization with outstanding associates who have built on our rich history and are moving us forward toward a promising future with active engagement in our community as a hallmark of who we are."

IBC: More than a health insurer

Health care has evolved dramatically since 1938, and IBC has led the way as a health insurer and advocate for quality care at an affordable price. To meet the changing needs of its customers and members during its 70-year history, IBC has achieved many significant milestones, including:

-- Expanding access to care throughout the region. In 1946, IBC's enrollment eclipsed 1 million.

-- Banning smoking. In 1989, the American Lung Association honored IBC for implementing one of the area's first stringent no-smoking policies in its offices, demonstrating IBC's dedication to the health of its employees.

-- Providing health insurance for children in low-income families. In 1990, IBC created the Independence Blue Cross and Pennsylvania Blue Shield Caring Foundation, a commitment to providing low-cost or free health insurance to disadvantaged children.

-- Offering a new product design. In 1991, IBC merged its three existing HMOs and introduced Keystone Health Plan East. By 1993, Keystone was the third largest and the fastest growing Blue HMO in the nation.

-- Encouraging healthy living. In 1992, IBC's Healthy Lifestyles(SM) program began encouraging healthy behaviors among members by giving reimbursements for active participation in exercise, weight loss, and smoking cessation.

-- Introducing a special plan for seniors. In 1993, IBC introduced Keystone 65, its first move into Medicare.

-- Improving maternity/infant care. In 1993, IBC began offering Baby BluePrints(R), a maternity program that provides case management and more to keep expectant mothers healthy during their pregnancies.

-- Moving into the Internet Age. In 1996, IBC became one of the first Blue plans in the nation to introduce a website,

Addressing chronic diseases. In 2003, IBC enhanced its Connections(SM) Health Management Program by offering Health Coaches to help members manage chronic illness like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Saving customers money on prescriptions. In 2006, IBC launched FutureScripts, an independent pharmacy benefit company dedicated to lowering drug costs.

Encouraging members to take prescribed drugs and save money with generics. In 2007, IBC introduced No Pay Copay, a creative program that waived copays on generic medications for one year to encourage members to switch from brand drugs to equally effective and much less costly generics, resulting in an increase from 47% to 62% today in the use of generics.

-- Supporting the well-being of its community. Throughout its history, IBC has built the health and well-being of its community. In 2007, IBC contributed more than $55 million to community activities, organizations, and outreach initiatives, and associates devoted more than 12,080 volunteer hours, predominantly through the corporate volunteer program, the Blue Crew. IBC's key outreach initiatives include:

The Nurse Scholars Program. Founded in 2004, this program helps improve the quality of care and reduce health care costs by addressing the critical shortage of nurses in our region by giving scholarships for nursing students to 29 local nursing schools.

The Charitable Medical Care Grant Program. Launched in 2003, this program expands access to quality, affordable health care by funding 31 clinics in surrounding communities that provide free or low-cost care to more than 90,000 uninsured and underinsured.

Summer internship program. In 2008 alone, IBC welcomed 54 high school interns and 52 college interns to help prepare the students for future careers.

Sponsorship of large-scale community events. IBC sponsors the following events to build the health of its community:
-- United Way Day of Caring, sponsored since 1995.

-- Blue Cross Broad Street Run, the event's title sponsor since 1997.

-- One Book One Philadelphia, sponsored since 2003.

-- National Walk at Lunch Day, sponsored for the first time in 2008.

-- Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes, sponsored for the first time in 2008.

About Independence Blue Cross

Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.4 million people nationwide. For 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high- quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.

SOURCE Independence Blue Cross
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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