Blue Cross NC, Cambia Health Solutions enter 'strategic affiliation'

Close-up of handshake between person in suit and person in business shirt.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Cambia Health Solutions have announced a new strategic affiliation. (Getty Images/FS-Stock)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Cambia Health Solutions will enter a strategic affiliation to unite under shared goals and management structure. 

Though the two partners aren’t calling the deal a merger, Blue Cross NC and Portland, Oregon-based Cambia will share management, administration and other corporate services under Cambia’s brand, the companies announced Tuesday afternoon. 

Blue Cross NC CEO Patrick Conway, M.D., will become CEO of Cambia under the new structure. Cambia’s board will keep nine of its current members and add 10 representatives from Blue Cross NC, while the Blues insurer will keep its existing board, according to the announcement. 

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Patrick Conway
Patrick Conway (Blue Cross NC)

Current Cambia CEO Mark Ganz will transition to director of the company’s board, and will in addition oversee corporate development, Cambia's consumer platform and Blue Cross NC and Cambia's existing joint venture, Echo Health Ventures.

The goal of the tie-up is to allow for continued flexibility in local markets while having the ability to combine investments in new technology and other innovation.

“We have to do something different to make healthcare better, simpler and more affordable for the people we serve,” Conway said. “By sharing resources, innovations and best-in-class services, we can fundamentally transform the way individuals and families experience the healthcare system.” 

RELATED: Duke, UNC among health systems to join value-based program with Blue Cross NC 

Even as the two companies come together at the top, the health plans they operate, which cover five states, will remain locally led and regulated. Cambia operates Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Regence BlueShield in Washington, Regence BlueShield of Idaho and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah. 

The two will also maintain individual, nonprofit corporate structures beneath the joint management arrangement. 

The strategic affiliation is a natural extension of the two company’s previous work together to launch Echo, according to the announcement. About 2.6 million people are enrolled in Cambia’s health plans in the Pacific Northwest, while Blue Cross NC boasts 1 million members in North Carolina. 

The announcement comes amid ongoing fervor in the industry for mergers—however, experts have said that some providers and insurers are instead starting to turn to strategic partnerships and affiliations like the one between Cambia and Blue Cross NC instead of traditional mergers, as they’re less costly and complex. Such partnerships can allow two players to come together to address changes in healthcare more quickly, industry watchers say. 

The affiliation will be subject to state regulatory approval in North Carolina, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state. 

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