Company History

Founded in 1934 in New Orleans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is the state's oldest and largest health insurer. For more than 75 years, we've been committed to improving the lives of Louisiana residents by providing health guidance and affordable access to quality care.

The company was born in February 1934, when representatives of six hospitals got together in a one-room office in New Orleans and formed the Hospital Service Association of New Orleans, a nonprofit, mutual insurer that offered a form of pre-paid hospital care.

Families were fighting the Great Depression, Huey Long was in the U.S. Senate, Bonnie and Clyde were on the run in north Louisiana — and the organization that would become Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana housed two employees in a small one-room office.

In November 1934, the Mutual Hospital Service of Shreveport was formed. An Alexandria organization, the Hospital Service Association of Alexandria, was formed in August 1938. And in 1938, a group of physicians and business leaders organized the Hospital Service Association of Baton Rouge.

In 1948, the Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport plans consolidated to form the Louisiana Hospital Service. At that time, it was approved by the American Hospital Association as a Blue Cross Plan and began doing business as Blue Cross of Baton Rouge. In 1958, the Hospital Service Association of New Orleans became licensed as Blue Cross of Greater New Orleans.

Merger and growth

Blue Cross of Baton Rouge and Blue Cross of Greater New Orleans remained separate until 1975, when the two companies consolidated to form a statewide plan — Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co., doing business as Blue Cross of Louisiana.

On Jan. 1, 1985, the company began doing business as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to reflect the fact that both hospital and physician coverage were provided by one plan.

As a consolidated statewide organization, Blue Cross soon outgrew the small building on Florida Street where it had made its home in Baton Rouge since 1968. Under then-CEO Howard Reitz, a search for suitable property began, and Blue Cross purchased 102 acres near Bluebonnet Boulevard and Interstate 10 in 1978. Construction began on the IT section in 1983, and the company's new headquarters was completed in 1987.

The campus in Baton Rouge was expanded in 1998 with the addition of the state-of-the-art Customer Service Center, an 82,000-square-foot building carefully designed with the needs of both employees and customers in mind.

The 1980s and 1990s were also a time of dramatic technological change and diversification. The company created Southern National Life Insurance Company, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary, in 1994. In 1996, we reactivated our subsidiary, HMO Louisiana, Inc., which offers HMO and point-of-service products. Membership hit the 1 million mark in 2004.

Challenge and opportunity

In August and September 2005, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated south Louisiana, Blue Cross reached out in extraordinary ways to help our own employees as well as members, providers and producers affected by the storms.

In 2006, the company launched an in-house wellness program to help employees make healthier lifestyle choices. The Louisiana 2 Step program was launched in January 2007, followed by a child-friendly companion site, 2 Step 4 Kids, in March 2008.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, BCBSLA ended 2007 with increases in membership and market share despite the many challenges faced by businesses here. Our hard work after the hurricanes paid off in the form of high customer satisfaction ratings and excellent member retention rates that exceeded our goals for the year. Our growth necessitated physical expansion in the form of a new building and parking garage for our main campus. Construction began in April 2007.

Blue Cross today

Today, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana provides group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance and group voluntary products to more than 1.3 million Louisianians.

One out of every four Louisianians is a Blue Cross member. All told, we have a $4 billion impact on the state's economy through taxes, community sponsorships and, most prominently, reimbursement for the medical claims of our members. On average, 85 cents of each premium dollar goes to pay members' claims.

Blue Cross has regional offices in Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport — and our Bluebonnet campus grew again with the completion of the new Operations Center in December 2008.

In 2009, Blue Cross celebrated our 75th anniversary with a new brand promise: Your Health. Our Commitment. More than 40 wellness and preventive care programs are highlighted on our website.

Throughout 2009, we worked to inform and educate our members about the debate over healthcare reform. After the healthcare reform law was passed in March 2010, we focused on implementation: helping our members understand the provisions of the new law and guiding them wherever possible in complying.

Early in 2010, we expanded our presence in Shreveport, opening a new and larger office that includes a local call center and disaster recovery headquarters. In April 2010, the state of Louisiana faced another challenge even as the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approached. A BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing a massive oil spill in the Gulf. The disaster radically affected the environment, the wildlife and the physical and economic health of thousands of Louisianians and those in neighboring Gulf Coast states.

Although BP and other groups worked hard to clean up the spill and cap the leaking well, the residents of Louisiana's coastal parishes were suffering from the loss of their jobs or businesses. People all over the state, including BCBSLA employees, wanted to help but felt helpless to know what to do.

As the oldest and largest healthcare provider in the state, Blue Cross is ready and willing to commit resources and expertise in times of crisis. We committed to taking a leadership role in providing health education and related services to our members, friends and neighbors who were devastated by this disaster. We reached out to other organizations and state agencies and founded the Our Home, Louisiana Coalition – named for the message of unity and hope we conceived in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, we're proud to look back on 75 years of commitment to the health of all Louisianians ... and to look forward with a vision for a healthy Louisiana.