USA Today Profiles Blue Shield of California CEO Bruce Bodaken
USA Today on Monday profiled Bruce Bodaken, president, chair and CEO of not-for-profit Blue Shield of California, and looked at his "controversial" proposal for creating a universal health care system. The insurer's net income has risen from $62 million in 2000, when Bodaken took the helm at Blue Shield, to $314 million currently. Since 1999, administrative expenses have fallen from 16% of revenue to 12.6%, and Blue Shield's reserve fund has grown from about $547 million to $1.1 billion. Currently, the company has $6 billion in revenue and is the fastest-growing insurer in California, adding 392,000 members in 2003.
In the past two years, Bodaken has begun to focus on the seven million people in California and 44 million nationwide who are uninsured, according to USA Today. With 20% of Californians uninsured, "We had to take a stand," Bodaken said, adding that health insurers, government and businesses share responsibility for the growing cost of health care and lack of access to care for many U.S. residents. Bodaken's solution to the problem, which received mixed reaction when it was proposed in 2002, is universal health coverage based on the existing private-sector model, according to USA Today. The plan would cost California $7.8 billion, and a similar approach would add $75 billion in federal spending, according to a study commissioned by Blue Shield. Bodaken said that despite the cost of the program, many employers would see their health care costs decrease because they would not longer be paying a "hidden tax" to cover the cost of caring for the uninsured. He said that creating a system of universal coverage would not necessitate the creation of a large new bureaucracy, although he acknowledged that "[t]his isn't for free. You have to have a fee or a tax." He added, "We all need to step up to the plate to find a solution" (Appleby, USA Today, 6/28).