It's no mistake that Premera sounds an awful lot like premier. Premera Blue Cross is a leading health care coverage provider to more than 1.8 million residents of Washington State, Oregon, and Alaska. A licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), Premera offers Blue-branded health care coverage including group and individual PPO, HMO, and consumer-directed plans, as well as Medicare supplemental, dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage. Its health care networks encompass some 27,000 health care providers and 100 hospitals. The not-for-profit Premera also operates several for-profit subsidiaries offering non-Blue health, life, and disability insurance in the western US.
The company operates as Premera Blue Cross in Washington and as Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield in Alaska, representing a network of 27,000 healthcare professionals. Through its affiliation with the BCBSA, Premara is able to offer BlueCard coverage to members of its Blue-branded plans traveling in the US and abroad. In the non-Blue realm, Premera's LifeWise Health Plan units offer health plans in Oregon and Washington, and its LifeWise Assurance business provides life and disability coverage in eight states.
Other companies run by Premera include Calypso Healthcare Solutions, a provider of claims payment tools and services to health insurers, and Ucentris Insured Solutions, a life and health insurance distributor. The Vivacity subsidiary, which provides wellness services and products, serves employers looking to cut health care costs and increase productivity by encouraging a healthier workforce.
Premera Blue Cross is headquartered in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, with operations in Seattle and Spokane, and in Anchorage. It serves businesses and residents of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington State, excluding Clark County.
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Serving employers, producers, and providers, the company’s clients include Alaska Air, Amazon, Microsoft, PACCAR, Starbucks, and Weyerhaeuser.
The company’s operating revenues increased by a marginal 0.5% to $3.4 billion in 2013 thanks to higher premium revenues and administrative fees, and growth in self-funded customers (61% of its membership in 2013, compared to 57% in 2012). A large portion of this growth came from self-funded employers, as its existing base of customers increased their membership. Premera also added a number of new self-funded clients in 2013, including Amazon.
Net income increased 33% to $130 million in 2013 due to decreases in benefit expenses, as well as increases in realized gains on investments.
Though its other operating subsidiaries have largely remained profitable, Premera has struggled with losing members in core markets because of increasing competition, as well as tough economic conditions and high unemployment rates. The company is working to reverse the trend by introducing new health plans. In 2014 the company partnered with Symetra Life Insurance to offer employer groups a broader range of life and disability products; it also expanded existing partnerships with Swedish Health Services and Providence Health.
In a move to expand its individual customer base, Premera entered the Medicare Advantage market (available in five counties across Washington) in 2014.
In 2013, as part of its mission to provide innovative programs focused on wellness and prevention, Premera teamed up with Healthways to include the SilverSneakers Fitness Program in its Medicare Advantage plans.
Premera was founded in 1998 through the merger of Medical Service Corporation, a Blue plan covering eastern Washington founded in 1933, and Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska, which was founded in 1945. For several years (starting in 2002), Premera attempted to convert into a for-profit company; it finally abandoned the plan in 2007 after the state's insurance commissioner and Washington health care providers continued to oppose the move.