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Tim Vines Gets Blues' Seat at D.C. Health Dealmaking Table

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What You Need to Know

  • There are 35 separate Blue Cross and Blue Shield carriers.
  • They provide or administer health coverage for 110 million people.
  • One issue the Blues are working on is ACA health insurance premium tax credits.

The board of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has elected Tim Vines to be its new chair.

Vines is the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. He succeeds David Holmberg, the CEO of Pittsburgh-based Highmark, who is on track to be the next chairman of another big health insurance trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

The post will give Vines a seat at the table for any major talks in Washington about how the country should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it should, or should not, change its health care delivery and health finance systems next.

Kim Keck will continue to be the group’s CEO.

Vines said in a comment, included in the announcement about his new association post, that he is grateful for the association and to serve as the association’s chair.

“I look forward to partnering with my colleagues as we continue the association’s progress of providing all Americans access to quality, affordable health care,” Vines said.

The Blues

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a Chicago-based group that represents 35 separate Blue Cross and Blue Shield carriers, ranging from small, nonprofit, single-state carriers to Anthem, a multistate carrier that’s one of the biggest publicly traded companies in the United States.

The Blues provide or administer health coverage for about 110 million people. They cover 80% or more of the individual major medical enrollees in 11 states and 80% or more of the small-group enrollees in 11 states, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Vines’ own company, Alabama Blue, is a Birmingham, Alabama-based carrier with a 97% share of its state’s individual and small-group commercial health insurance markets, and a 94% share of the state’s market for fully insured large-group commercial coverage.

The Blues’ Numbers

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a large organization in its own right.

The latest association annual report available from the IRS, for 2018, shows that the association reported a $3.5 million gain for 2018 on $606 million in revenue and $796 million in assets.

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The association had 1,608 employees.

Tim Vines

Vines has been working for Alabama Blue for 27 years. He became the company’s CEO in 2018.

He also serves on the boards of Auburn University, Samford University, the Business Council of Alabama and the Regions Financial Corp. banking company.

Vines assumes the chair role from David L. Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark Health, who was elected in 2019.

The Future

Versions of the big social spending package now being debated in Washington, the Build Back Better bill, have included many provisions that could affect Medicare, Medicaid and commercial health insurance.

Some sections, for example, could expand access to the Affordable Care Act premium tax credit for individual and small-group health insurance.

Another section could add a hearing care benefit to the traditional Medicare plan.

Many hospitals appear to be facing severe staffing shortages because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.

Medicare students say the country faces a growing shortage of doctors in some specialties partly because the country is funding too few residency slots at teaching hospitals.

As chair of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Vines could have a chance to help shape how policymakers in Washington address all of those issues.

Pictured: Tim Vines (Photo/Regions)