The early days of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans marked the birth of prepaid health care coverage in America. Originally, Blue Cross Plans were formed to cover the cost of hospital care while Blue Shield Plans were established to cover physicians' services. Today, both brands represent the full spectrum of health care coverage. Here's how it all began:
Blue Cross Roots
1929 – Justin Ford Kimball, an official at Baylor University in Dallas, introduces a plan to guarantee schoolteachers 21 days of hospital care for $6 a year. Other groups of employees in Dallas soon join the plan, and the idea quickly attracts nationwide attention. Thus the Blue Cross concept is born.
1939 – The Blue Cross symbol is officially adopted as national emblem for such plans.
Blue Shield Roots
1900 – The Blue Shield concept emerges from the lumber and mining camps of the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century. Employers want to provide medical care for their workers, so they pay monthly fees to "medical service bureaus" composed of groups of physicians.
1939 – These pioneer programs lead to the first Blue Shield Plan, which is established in California in 1939.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Roots
1982 – The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is formed as the result of a merger of the Blue Cross Association and National Association of Blue Shield Plans.
Today the Blue Cross and Blue Shield System consists of 38 member plans that are independent, locally operated companies under the coordination of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The Origins of Wellmark
1939 – Hospital Service Incorporated of Iowa, later known as Blue Cross of Iowa, begins business in Des Moines. That same year, Associated Hospital Services Incorporated, later known as Blue Cross of Western Iowa and South Dakota, begins in Sioux City, Iowa.
1945 – Iowa Medical Service, later known as Blue Shield of Iowa, is formed.
1948 – Associated Hospital Services begins doing business in South Dakota and marketing activities as Blue Cross.
1956 – South Dakota Medical Service begins doing business in South Dakota as South Dakota Blue Shield.
1966 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa begin serving as fiscal agents for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, a role it will serve until 1980.
1973 – Associated Hospital Service, Incorporated changes its name to Blue Cross of Western Iowa and South Dakota.
1974 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa launch Delta Dental Plan of Iowa; a relationship that will end in 1998 when Delta establishes its own operational capacity.
1984 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa form Total Health Network of Iowa (THN), the Plans' physician-manager HMO.
1986 – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota markets AWARE, the first managed care product in South Dakota.
Alliance SelectSM, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa’s highly successful PPO, becomes operational and grows rapidly.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa purchases Benefit Administrators of America, Inc. (BAAI), a third-party administrator (TPA). BAAI is the Plans' first for-profit venture. It is renamed Wellmark Administrators, Inc. in 1997.
1989 – Blue Cross of Iowa, Blue Shield of Iowa and Blue Cross of Western Iowa and South Dakota merge to form IASD Health Services Corporation.
1991 – IASD Health Services Corporation becomes a mutual insurance company owned by its policyholders.
1994 – Blue Cross of South Dakota and South Dakota Blue Shield's joint service agreement expires, putting the Plans in competition with one another.
1996 – Blue Shield of South Dakota merges into IASD to form a single company.
Blue Cross of South Dakota and South Dakota Blue Shield merge, creating South Dakota Health Services Company d.b.a. "Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Dakota."
1997 – The enterprise adopts the Wellmark brand, using the trade names Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota.
After the consolidation of several operating systems, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota receives recognition from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association as "Most Improved Plan" in inter-plan services.
2008 – Wellmark breaks ground and construction begins on the company’s new headquarters building in downtown Des Moines. After renting headquarters space throughout its entire existence, company feels it’s in the best interest of its members to own.
Today – Wellmark's Strategic Priorities, under CEO John Forsyth and its board of directors, focus our company’s energies and resources on distinctive capabilities that provide unique value to our customers and stakeholders. It is our goal to achieve the full potential of our core business. Achievement of these priorities will position us to continue to provide unique value and to continue to grow in Iowa and South Dakota.