Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware, Highmark affiliation approved

    After a rocky 14 month-approval process, the affiliation of Delaware’s largest insurer with a Pennsylvania company is now official.

    Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware will partner with Highmark, the much larger Pittsburgh-based nonprofit insurer.

    Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart, who approved the affiliation Friday, said the 49 conditions detailed in her decision will ensure jobs and regulatory oversight stay in the state.

    “Blue Cross and Blue Shield will remain in Delaware, its corporate office will stay here, and the people Delaware subscribers interact with will be here,” Stewart said. “Employment in Delaware will be continued.”

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    Blue Cross Blue Shield agreed not to lay off any of its 600-plus employees for the first 18 months of the agreement.

    Bill Kirk, general counsel for Blue Cross Blue Shield, said the affiliation will mean better customer service for policyholders. That includes access to Highmark’s online wellness portal and new, real-time claims processing.

    “Patients will know by the time they leave the doctor’s office what their financial responsibility will be,” Kirk said. “That’s going to avoid follow-up mailings from the doctor to the patients to collect co-payments and that type of thing.”

    As part of the agreement, Blue Cross Blue Shield pledged about $3 million to subsidize the state’s CHIP program. The money will make the public health insurance in Delaware available to kids from slightly higher-income families.

    The affiliation deal appeared to be in jeopardy this spring when Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden ruled that a portion of the company’s reserves would have to be put into a foundation for charity use in the state.

    The decision was reversed by the state Legislature.

    Affiliations with Philadelphia and Harrisburg-based Blues have fallen through in recent years as Highmark has tried with varying success to increase its geographic footprint.

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