Blue Cross has a new leader. On Feb.16, 2016, the Board of Directors of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana unanimously approved the appointment of a new President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Steven Udvarhelyi (say ‘OOOD-var-high). Seldom can any company boast of finding someone who has done as much in his chosen field as our new leader.
Of course, any new leader will have growing pains. We struggled to make sure we could pronounce his name correctly. Board Chairman Dan Borné said we should just change it to Hebert! But, we settled on Doctor Steve, and now it’s just Steve. Nobody’s standing on formalities around here!
One of the first things Steve said when I met him last week was, “Blue Cross is not just where our employees work, it’s part of the fabric of this community.” Amen.
I’m so encouraged that our new leader really gets the notion that this large, not-for-profit company doesn’t exist just for the benefit of the 2,000 plus employees, but to fulfill our mission “to improve the health and lives of all Louisianans.” Knowing we have a new leader who understands how important Blue Cross is to this state is very encouraging.
Steve has been there and done that. He is an internal medicine (primary care) doctor by training and was part of the medical faculty at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. He moved into the private sector with Prudential and learned the health insurance/payments business the hard way, by working his way up until he ran all of the business they did in the entire state of Florida.
He spent 20 years at Independence Blue Cross in Pennsylvania (a plan roughly three times larger than ours) as their Chief Medical Officer and had a variety of roles, including his last position as Chief Strategy Officer. This means over the decades, Steve has seen the healthcare system and been successful from every angle imaginable, in very large and smaller settings.
In this age of rapid change and evolving roles, I believe Steve is perfect for the rapidly evolving roles Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is facing today.
Our new governor, Jon Bel Edwards, on his second day in office signed an executive order to embrace Medicaid expansion. His target is to have cards in the hands of the newly eligible starting on July 1, just a few months away. As we discussed in an earlier blog post, this expansion is very important to Blue Cross customers as well as our entire state.
Steve is already working to define Blue Cross’ role in this process, “The expansion of Medicaid is an important milestone for this state. We stand ready, willing and interested in working with Gov. Edwards and his administration on how to implement this expansion in a way that works for the state, for its neediest citizens, but also for the healthcare delivery system, business and other stakeholders,” he said.
So we’re in, ready to advise, help and increase the effectiveness of the expansion.
And because Steve was heavily involved in Medicaid through Independence Blue Cross’ efforts, he is well positioned to be a trusted adviser to the governor and his staff to assist in making the expansion run smoothly. This is great news — Steve just got here, and he’s ready and able to help. This is right where Blue Cross should be, improving lives here in Louisiana.
Fortunately for all of us, Steve is a big thinker. His last four-year plan at Independence Blue Cross as Chief Strategy Officer began in 2012 and led to a member growth rate of roughly 12% per year! It takes solid strategy and even more competent execution to keep a good thing going for four years in a row. That’s the sort of long-term vision it will take to tackle Louisiana’s healthcare issues, which I’ve been talking about here for quite some time now. Steve will have his hands full, but, every time I see him, I see someone who is up to the challenge; someone who has no qualms about hard work.
And even more importantly, Mike Reitz himself anointed Steve, gave him his full seal of approval in an email to me: “I’m so impressed with his genuine comfort of our organization/market and more importantly, its comfort with him. Steve has the tangible and intangible leadership qualities that will pay huge dividends to the entire state he now calls home.” Clearly, we are good to go with Steve.
Time to get moving! The fun starts now…
Say hello to Steve! Blue Cross is in good hands!