Health Care Service Corp. has named a new chief executive with a three-decade history working for the company to lead the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in five states.
Maurice Smith, who is 48 years old, will become chief executive officer and president of Health Care Service effective June 1 when he will replace interim CEO David Lesar who will remain a member of the company’s board of directors, the insurer said Tuesday.
Health Care Service is the nation’s fifth-largest health insurer with nearly 16 million health plan members. Health Care Service is the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana.
Smith, who joined Health Care Service as an intern nearly 27 years ago, will be the first permanent CEO of Health Care Service since Paula Steiner surprised company observers by stepping down less than a year ago after a four-year stint as the company’s top executive.
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“Maurice has deep industry experience and a proven track record of strong leadership, and he recognizes the challenges we must confront, and the opportunities we have now to advance our purpose,” Lesar said in a statement. “The board and I look forward to working with him and the rest of the HCSC team to ensure a continued success in simplifying the health care experience and helping people achieve their health care goals.”
Health Care Service is a mutual insurer owned by policyholders. There has been some speculation that it could become a part of Anthem, an investor-owned publicly traded operator of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states.
But Health Care Service has publicly said for years it’s not interested in becoming an investor-owned company even as its rivals like UnitedHealth Group, the Aetna unit of CVS Health, Anthem and Cigna get bigger through acquisitions.
Smith most recently was president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the largest of HCSC’s health plans, “where he was responsible for the overall strategic direction for Illinois health plan including the organization’s long-term growth strategy, planning and performance.”
Insiders at Health Care Service say Smith is very community-oriented and that will serve the company’s health plans well as the industry moves to address social determinants of health. Such strategies will be tested in the future as the health care system continues to grapple with the spread of the coronavirus strain COVID-19 and high unemployment that is expected to disrupt health insurance coverage for many.
“I am honored to lead HCSC, a company that for more than 90 years has focused on innovation, execution — and through the dedication of our nearly 24,000 employees — helped expand access to quality, cost-effective health care to all Americans,” Smith said in a statement. “We will continue to take action to focus and execute on a strategy that will propel this exciting and innovative company into the next phase of its evolution, while providing long-term value to customers, medical and other health care providers, employees and other partners in the dynamic health care industry.”