Conway resigns after his arrest results in pause of Blue Cross NC, Cambia affiliation

Pushpin showing North Carolina on a map
Blue Cross NC and Cambia Health Solutions have put their planned merger on hold. (Getty/Creative RF)

UPDATE, 8:30 A.M.: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Patrick Conway has resigned following a media firestorm over the past week following the news that he had been arrested in June and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Conway posted on Twitter Thursday morning that he is "ashamed, embarrassed and sorry about my actions" and acknowledged that following the arrest he stepped back from his day-to-day duties and entered a 30-day treatment program.

"I also understand that I must continue to work hard to earn back the trust I’ve lost based on my actions," Conway said in the statement. "I therefore am resigning my position as CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and will continue to respect and honor the legal process. In time, I look forward to continuing my work ensuring everyone has access to high quality, affordable healthcare."

He added that he has been "tried and convicted" in the news media, including through information about his arrest that he was unaware of until this week.

The original version of this story continues below:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Cambia Health Solutions have put their planned “strategic affiliation” on hold after news reports last week revealed Conway was charged with driving while intoxicated. 

Conway, M.D., the chief executive at Blue Cross NC who would take over as leader of the two companies’ new joint corporate structure, was charged with DWI and misdemeanor child abuse following a minor crash in June, The News & Observer reported

There were no injuries, but police said two of Conway’s daughters were in the car at the time of the crash, according to the newspaper. 

The planned merger was put on hold after news reports revealed additional details about the crash and video footage was provided to the News & Observer which shows a car purported to be Conway’s side-swiping a tractor-trailer. 

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

Blue Cross NC said in a statement to FierceHealthcare that the hold is “temporary.” 

“Blue Cross NC is committed to focusing on its customers, employees and the North Carolina communities it serves,” the insurer said. 

Cambia CEO Mark Gantz and Board Chair Mike Hoppel said in a joint statement that the charges against Conway are “troubling” and also said the deal is on ice temporarily “until all the facts are known and the legal process concludes.” 

“The merits of the strategic affiliation are sound and built on a shared strategic vision to make healthcare better, simpler and more affordable for individuals and their families,” the Cambia officials said.  

Cambia and Blue Cross NC announced in March that they intended to enter a “strategic affiliation" where the health plans would operate with local independence but under a shared corporate structure, with Conway at the top as CEO. 

Cambia boasts about 2.6 million members in the Pacific Northwest while Blue Cross NC’s membership includes 1 million people in North Carolina.  

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Pushback against the deal has been brewing since the charges against Conway were revealed. Insurance commissioners regulating both insurers blasted the companies for not informing the public about the charges sooner.  

Washington state commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a letter to Cambia that under state law it is required that the insurer notify him within two business days of the charges against Conway, and he was instead contacted by Cambia on Sept. 19 just before the news broke. 

“Part of my responsibility in conducting reviews of mergers is to ensure that companies merit the fiduciary trust placed in them by Washington consumers,” Kreidler wrote. “Your behavior in this matter must and will be taken into account as my office considers Cambia/Regence 's request for a merger.” 

The News & Observer reported that North Carolina commissioner Mike Causey said the charges are “alarming.”

“What is even more alarming is the appearance that the board and executive team worked to hide the arrest from the public’s attention, then was almost dismissive of the troubling charges when reported in the news media,” Causey wrote in a letter to Blue Cross NC’s board.