A history of providing secure and stable coverage for America’s workers | Blue Cross Blue Shield

A history of providing secure and stable coverage for America’s workers

Published September 2, 2015

A history of providing secure and stable coverage for America’s workers

At its most humble beginnings in the early 1900s, the idea that evolved to become the Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance system originated with American workers.

In lumber and mining camps in the Pacific Northwest, camp owners paid physicians monthly fees to provide medical care for employees and their families. In Dallas, public school teachers contributed $6 a year for coverage of hospital care. American workers identified the need to ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare for themselves and their families, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies were there for them.

In 1965, the Blue System became the first to establish an office solely devoted to servicing the healthcare needs of organized labor. Now, as the National Labor Office (NLO) marks its 50th year, we’re proud to reflect back on decades of partnership with the labor community, built on trust and a commitment to working together –and to look ahead to serving America’s working families for years to come.  

Over the last five decades, the NLO has worked hand in hand with organized labor to empower working Americans with secure and stable health coverage. That includes building benefit designs customized for the labor community that enhance workplace health and wellbeing, and forming programs dedicated to education and training our team to better enable the support of labor's strategic objectives.  Today, more than 17 million unionized workers, family members and retirees turn to BCBS companies for health insurance–more than any other insurer.

BCBS companies’ have demonstrated our commitment to working Americans throughout our 85 year history.  In the 1940s, the men and women of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) turned to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for their health care needs, and today, BCBSM continues to serve nearly 1 million UAW active auto members and retirees across the United States. More recently, in 2001 the NLO partnered with the nationally recognized AFL-CIO National Labor College to launch the Labor Certification Program, which trains BCBS labor executives on topics such as labor philosophy, history and bargaining issues. The NLO also formed a partnership with Rutgers University to launch the Advanced Labor Studies Program, which takes place once a year and addresses the evolving challenges and opportunities brought by the Affordable Care Act and the current labor environment.

Through programs like these, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies deepen our understanding of organized labor’s unique needs–and enrich our ability to meet them. 

Meeting the healthcare needs of American workers has and always will be an important mission for BCBS companies. As the NLO marks its 50th year of dedicated service to organized labor, we are committed to remaining the top choice for America’s working families for years to come.