PITTSBURGH and BUFFALO – Highmark Inc. announced today that its affiliation unveiled in June 2020 with HealthNow New York Inc. has become effective.
“We look forward to bringing our resources, tools and advanced technologies to Western and Northeastern New York,” said Deborah Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark Inc. “With this affiliation, we begin our path forward to enhance customer and clinician engagement, create better health outcomes, control costs and improve affordability for members in Western and Northeastern New York.”
In the coming months, the newly affiliated organization will be rebranded Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York and Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York.
As a part of the affiliation approval, certain employment commitments were made to ensure job stability in the New York market. In addition, Highmark Western and Northeastern New York will commit $2 million annually for five years in support of programs, services and initiatives aimed at addressing health disparities throughout communities in the health plan’s 21-county New York service region.
After more than seven years as President and CEO of HealthNow, Dave Anderson announced he will be retiring at the end 2021 – marking the affiliation transition as one of his final accomplishments after successfully leading HealthNow through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, growing HealthNow’s membership, enhancing the company’s community presence and social mission efforts, and, most recently, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today’s announcement that we are affiliating with Highmark is a shining moment for our members in Western and Northeastern New York and our employees. As the integration of our companies begins, I will plan my departure knowing that we’ve positioned this organization for tremendous success in the years ahead,” said Anderson. “During my tenure, we have always embraced improving health care for everyone we serve, and this affiliation will enable us to accelerate our efforts in improving health care while continuing to focus on our mission to serve the community.”
Keeping leadership local
Highmark is committed to maintaining a local presence in Western and Northeastern New York. The newly affiliated organization will have a community-based Board of Directors, largely comprised of the former HealthNow’s Board members.
Given Anderson’s significant management contributions and to ensure continuity of leadership in the local community, it is expected that Anderson will continue as a member of the Board of Directors of Highmark Western and Northeastern New York (previously HealthNow) in 2022.
While Anderson will remain CEO in the year ahead, HealthNow’s Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Growth Officer Michael Edbauer, D.O. will be named President of Highmark Western and Northeastern New York. In this role, he will be responsible for all Western and Northeastern New York health plan activities.
HealthNow’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Julie R. Snyder will assume a new role in Community Affairs and continue to have accountability for all New York-focused community affairs activities and charitable giving. HealthNow’s Senior Vice President and Chief Network Officer Ron Mornelli will assume a new role in Provider Contracting & Relations and retain accountability for leading contract development with all New York health care providers. Other leadership roles will be announced once the integration structures are finalized.
In the near term, there will be no changes in product designs for members with coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York or Blue Shield of Northeastern New York.
Throughout 2021 and beyond, Highmark intends to bring its resources, tools and advanced technologies to Western and Northeastern New York to enhance the products and services offered to members in those areas. This will follow both state and federal regulatory guidelines and timelines. Additionally, Highmark is planning to make available new and enhanced administrative capabilities and technologies focused on improving the member, broker and provider experience.
This affiliation expands Highmark’s health plan footprint to four states and continues its successful track record of affiliations with the Blue Plans in Delaware and West Virginia and its merger with Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The affiliation brings Highmark health plan membership to more than 6 million people – making it the fourth largest Blue Plan in the nation – and will add to Highmark’s strong financial position.
About Highmark Inc.
One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. and its affiliated health plans work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization in membership, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of more than 6 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, along with Western and Northeastern New York. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.