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The evolution of health coverage: Wellmark celebrates 60th anniversary in South Dakota
September 28, 2009

SIOUX FALLS, SD (September 28, 2009) – Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is celebrating 60 years of service to its South Dakota members in 2009. And while health insurance has changed dramatically over that time, Wellmark’s goal of providing outstanding service to its members and health care providers has remained the same.


The early days of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans marked the birth of pre-paid 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, these plans are combined to provide a full range of health care coverage.


What we know today as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota began in 1948:

  • Associated Hospital Service, based in Sioux City, Iowa, began operating as Blue Cross in South Dakota with 35 member hospitals. Its name was later changed to Blue Cross of Western Iowa and South Dakota.
  • In 1956, South Dakota Medical Service, with the support of 100 physicians, began operating as South Dakota Blue Shield to provide the public with affordably priced health services. In those days, Blue Cross plans represented hospital coverage, while Blue Shield plans represented physician coverage.
  • Blue Cross of Western Iowa and South Dakota merged with Blue Cross of Iowa, and Blue Shield of Iowa, in 1989. The new entity operated as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and Blue Cross of South Dakota. South Dakota Blue Shield merged with the group in 1996, and the Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield name was adopted in 1997.

Today, Wellmark offers a full range of health insurance and related products to nearly 320,000 South Dakota residents, including 4,000 employer groups, 26,000 federal employees and 77,000 individuals. Wellmark has 130 employees in South Dakota, working from offices in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.


“We’re proud that so many South Dakotans choose Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield as their health insurance provider,” said John Forsyth, Wellmark’s chairman and CEO. “Our employees work every day to earn their trust, spend their money wisely, and collaborate with hospitals and physicians to ensure high quality health care.”


 While no one can predict what the next 60 years will bring, Forsyth notes one thing is certain. “We’ll still be working to make South Dakota one of the healthiest states in the nation.”


Visit for more information on Wellmark’s history, products and services.


Contact Wellmark Media Relations

Traci McBee
Phone: 515-376-4338


Teresa Roof
Phone: 515-376-5869


1331 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309-2901

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