Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) began enrolling members in the wake of our country's depression. It was a risky proposition, but the idea quickly caught on, and by the end of our first year in business, the company had signed on more than 10,000 members. As 1940 drew to a close, enrollment had nearly doubled.
Miners, factory workers and teachers were joining by the thousands. BCNEPA was serving the community by taking a leadership role in creating awareness and developing health programs that improved the quality of life of its members and the community.
By this time, every third person in northeastern Pennsylvania belonged to the local Blue Cross and Blue Shield® Plan.
Hurricane Agnes hit the area and BCNEPA was on the scene to help victims re-establish themselves and preserve their health.
With well more than 500,000 members, BCNEPA moved into our office location on North Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
In the face of rising health care costs, the company formed HMO of Northeastern Pennsylvania (now known as First Priority Health®) to deliver a strong and tangible response to employers seeking cost-effective health care solutions for their employees.
Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Highmark Blue Shield established The Caring Foundation of Northeastern Pennsylvania to provide health care coverage to children of our community whose families could not afford it on their own. Today, we offer the state’s CHIP program—offering low-cost and no-cost health insurance to nearly 9,000 children in our service area. Approximately 83% of BCNEPA’s CHIP families do not pay for the coverage they receive.
BCNEPA celebrated its 60th anniversary, a proud milestone denoting our long-standing commitment to the businesses and people of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.
BCNEPA continued to attract new members. Overall membership rose to more than 572,000 individuals, an impressive show of confidence based on our continual response to needs in a rapidly evolving health care environment. We also implemented a customer appreciation credit to help mitigate the rise in group health care costs.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania was launched. BCNEPA established its private, nonprofit foundation as a vehicle to invest in community education and prevention initiatives that produce measurable health improvements and help manage long term health costs for the residents of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. In more than a decade of service, The Foundation has awarded nearly $10 million in grant funding to 190 nonprofits to help meet the health and wellness needs of more than 191,000 at-risk individuals.
BCNEPA launched self-service web portals for our members, providers and our customers to improve efficiency and save time. Members are now able to view what claims have been paid and what’s been applied, make changes to their personal information and communicate electronically with service reps. Self-Service also allows our members to order replacement ID cards, find quality and cost information for doctors, access a registered nurse anytime with 24/7 Nurse Now, manage their health and wellness goals with easy-to-use online resources and access member-only discounts on health-related products and services. In 2012, the Self-Service mobile app launched allowing members to access their health care information anytime, anywhere.
Also in 2005, BCNEPA launched a first-in-the-nation campaign that challenged overweight individuals to lose a combined one million pounds and reverse the obesity epidemic that grips our region. “The Million Pound Meltdown” encouraged every overweight person in our entire community to seize control of his or her health by taking the first steps – literally – towards a longer, healthier life.
With the rising cost of health care affecting everyone, BCNEPA invested in its membership with its most robust health and wellness effort to date. Blue Health SolutionsSM offers members motivational support and encouragement through personalized health coaching, wellness and disease management and online resources to help members get healthy and live healthier every day.
BCNEPA introduced BlueCare® Direct plans for individuals not eligible for group coverage through an employer. These plans answered the call for affordable health insurance coverage with low out-of-pocket costs for care. It was ideal for early retirees, recent college graduates and those self-employed. Its impact was far reaching because it was specifically designed to be affordable health care for individuals in our 13-county region.
Also in 2007, BCNEPA joined forces with Susquehanna Health to collaborate on community health outreach and early intervention programs in and around Lycoming County. With strong involvement from health experts at both organizations, the LifeCenter, in Williamsport, offers an array of services and events, such as free health screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure, colorectal cancer and other health conditions and one-to-one consultations to help individuals make better decisions about their health. In 2013, the LifeCenter handled more than 30,000 visits for screenings, classes, consultations, displays and general health information.
BCNEPA celebrated its 70th anniversary, a proud milestone, proving not only our long-standing commitment to the businesses and people of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania but our commitment to working with members to help them live healthier lives.
In 2008, BCNEPA recognized the importance of investing in The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, which has produced a new generation of locally educated and locally trained doctors. This investment has and will continue to make a significant difference in the health and wellness of our members and all of the residents of this region, improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care. By providing a means to keep care local, we all benefit with improved access and cost savings.
In June 2012, we launched The Blue Cross Store of Northeastern Pennsylvania – located in the Bartonsville Plaza on Route 611 in Stroudsburg, our first ever walk-in retail location. Within a few months of its grand opening, The Blue Cross Store attracted more than 600 visitors. In October of 2013, we opened our second Blue Cross Store in Dickson City. By March of 2014, more than 2,600 consumers visited the store looking for affordable coverage options.
In the fall of 2013, individual consumers and groups of all sizes encountered a health insurance marketplace fundamentally changed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One of the most significant market reforms was the creation of the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), where consumers are able to shop for coverage and apply for tax credits and subsidies to help make coverage more affordable. As a result, we introduced our online Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania Store, a sophisticated tool for learning about ACA Metal health insurance plans and applying for coverage through our private exchange, and serving as a portal for those who need to access the public exchange to apply for federal premium tax credits and cost-share subsidies.
BCNEPA entered the marketplace with several ACA compliant plans that guaranteed coverage for all applicants. Each of the new BCNEPA Metal plans includes access to the largest networks of doctors and hospitals, prescription drug coverage, Essential Health Benefits, numerous health and wellness resources and more.
In 2013, the company celebrated its 75th Anniversary. BCNEPA was chartered as a not-for-profit hospital plan based in Wilkes-Barre on September 7, 1938. Soon after, the newly-chartered organization began selling polices “door-to-door” in Wilkes-Barre. Back then, a family could be covered for $1.90 per month, guaranteeing each family member up to 21 days of hospital care.
At the start of 2014, BCNEPA launched its first corporate social media outreach campaign with a presence on Facebook. The page offers individuals another way to stay up to date on topics about their health, our community and life in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.
2015 and Beyond
In June 2015, BCNEPA merged with Highmark Inc. and continues to serve northeastern and north central Pennsylvania as Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Now an even stronger organization, our members, customers and community members can feel confident that Highmark will be there to meet the future health insurance and health and wellness needs of our region.