California Forum

Another View: Judge Blue Shield of California by its work

Paul Markovich
Paul Markovich

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this, he meant that he judges others by their actions, not their words. It’s good advice and exactly what you should do with not-for-profit Blue Shield of California.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot said about Blue Shield of California and our not-for-profit mission of ensuring all Californians have access to high-quality health care at an affordable price (“Blue Shield should give public its due”; Viewpoints, April 26). The real question is: What have we done?

▪  In 2011, we voluntarily capped our net income at 2 percent of premium revenues, returning amounts over that to our members and the public through premium credits and community investments. We’ve returned more than $500 million since we adopted the program and remain the only major health company in California – not-for-profit or for-profit – to voluntarily cap our income.

▪  Over the past decade, we have given $325 million to the Blue Shield of California Foundation, which in turn has made grants mainly to California safety net providers, including $32 million in 2014.

▪  We pioneered partnerships with network providers, such as Accountable Care Organizations, that have materially improved the affordability of health insurance. USC’s health care economics expert Glenn Melnick noted in Health Affairs that Blue Shield of California’s ACO in Sacramento is among the oldest and largest in the country and has reported more than $105 million in savings since 2010.

▪  We champion important health care policy. Years before the Affordable Care Act debate, Blue Shield was the first health plan in the country to propose universal health coverage. Some in the industry criticized us because they felt their business would be jeopardized by such a plan, but it was the right thing to do.

We also already pay a substantially higher percentage of our income in total federal taxes and state fees than most for-profit companies. In 2014, our tax payments represented about 40 percent of our income, and that may increase depending upon the outcome of our appeal regarding state income taxes.

At not-for-profit Blue Shield of California, we are passionately committed to our mission as our No. 1 priority. You should believe that because of what we do. Whatever our tax bill turns out to be and whatever others say, we will remain focused on ensuring all Californians have access to high-quality, affordable health care.

Paul Markovich is the president and CEO of Blue Shield of California.