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Highmark, HealthNow New York announce affiliation agreement

The stated goal is to drive better health outcomes, manage costs, improve affordability and boost engagement.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Highmark skyscraper, Pittsburgh. Photo by <a href="">Brent Moore</a>Highmark skyscraper, Pittsburgh. Photo by Brent Moore

Highmark and HealthNow New York said this week they have agreed to affiliate, bringing together the two nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans that serve the communities of Western and Northeastern New York, as well as Highmark's Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia regions.

The stated goal of the affiliation is to drive better health outcomes, manage costs, improve affordability and boost engagement for customers and clinicians.

Under the terms of the affiliation agreement, Highmark's parent company, Highmark Health, will become the primary licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association for HealthNow's eight-county Western New York and 13-county Northeastern New York service areas, pending regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other closing conditions.

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In a statement, Highmark said members will receive the benefits of additional resources and breadth of offerings "while preserving the local identity and focus of a regional, mission-driven company."

The affiliation agreement, unanimously approved by the respective health plans' boards of directors, contains provisions that are designed to preserve HealthNow's historical presence in Western and Northeastern New York. For example, HealthNow will maintain its headquarters in Erie County, New York, as well as its regional office in Albany County.

HealthNow will be branded Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York and Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York, preserving the health plan's local identity.

In a nod to local influence over healthcare decisions and maintaining a local market presence, the entities said they would maintain jobs in the local affiliate's market, thereby minimizing disruptions to the workforce. HealthNow Administrative Services, with locations in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and Sacramento, California, will also be part of the proposed transaction, maintaining third-party-administrator services for more than 100,000 customers.

Together, Highmark and HealthNow provide health insurance plans that serve nearly six million members.


"This affiliation is good for the people and communities we serve," said David Anderson, president and CEO of HealthNow. "Highmark has a unique business model, organized around the principles of partnership between payers and providers. In addition, Highmark has been a leader among the Blues and in the broader industry in developing new capabilities and innovative Blue Cross Blue Shield products from which our members and customers will benefit."

"Highmark has a strong track record of successful relationships and affiliations with other Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies," said Deborah Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark. "This affiliation will preserve the strong presence of a not-for-profit Blue organization that is committed to the health and vitality of the local communities it serves."

Twitter: @JELagasse

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