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John D. Forsyth

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
John D. Forsyth

John Forsyth is Chairman and CEO of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and CEO of its subsidiary, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota. Wellmark is the largest health insurer in both states, providing health care financing and delivery for more than 1.9 million members.

Forsyth joined Wellmark in August 1996 and was named Chairman in 2000. During his tenure, Forsyth has repositioned Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield as a health improvement company dedicated to serving the people of Iowa and South Dakota.

During his 10 years with the company, Wellmark has achieved exceptional results while achieving operating efficiencies. The company has increased its enrollment in each of the years since Forsyth’s arrival and kept its administrative costs among the lowest in the nation.

Believing the extensive health care data maintained by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield could provide a powerful catalyst for action to improve community health throughout Iowa and South Dakota, Forsyth has shared Wellmark’s vast database with community leaders, policymakers, customers, and others. The most visible example of this is the publishing of The Wellmark Report, a comprehensive look at health status in both states – focusing most recently on prescription drugs.

Through Forsyth’s leadership, The Wellmark Foundation focuses its philanthropic activities on projects to invest in and improve the health of the people of Iowa and South Dakota, awarding more than $1 million annually for community-based health initiatives.

Before joining Wellmark, Forsyth served in a variety of executive roles over a 26-year career with the University of Michigan. In 1985, Forsyth was named President and CEO of the University of Michigan Health System.

Forsyth holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in economics from Michigan State University.

Forsyth was named by Gov. Tom Vilsack to the Iowa Board of Regents in April 2003, and served as president of the board from April 2004 to January 2005. In April 2000, at Gov. Vilsack’s request, Forsyth led a statewide task force on teacher compensation, which resulted in precedent-setting changes to teacher pay in Iowa.

Forsyth served as president of the Federation of Iowa Insurers in 2001-2002, and is a member of the Iowa Business Council, serving as its chair in 2004. In September 2003, he was elected to the board of directors of Baxter, International, Inc., and in May 2004, named chair of the Compensation Committee.

A contributing author and editor for various publications throughout his career, including the Journal of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Forsyth has chaired the board of directors of the United Way of Central Iowa, the Variety Club Annual Telethon, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and continues to chair the Investment Committee of the Association of American Medical Colleges. He has served, and continues to serve on numerous national committees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, including serving on its board of directors.


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