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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas’ 90 years of service began with teachers

It all began 90 years ago with teachers and concern for their health care needs.

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By Shara McClure, Divisional Senior Vice President, Texas Health Care Delivery, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas

In December 1929, Justin Ford Kimball was in a new job overseeing operations at the Baylor University Hospital in Dallas. It was just weeks after the historic stock market crash and Texas was in the grips of an icy winter with extraordinary amounts of snow.

As he studied the books, Kimball spotted a troubling trend: Many of the bills owed to the hospital belonged to educators.

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A prominent education leader who had started out as a teacher in rural schools, Kimball wanted to help educators better manage the expenses they accumulated when they went to the hospital to have babies or get treated for serious ailments.

He devised an innovative plan where a teacher could prepay 50 cents a month, $6.00 a year, to cover the cost of a 21-day stay at a Baylor hospital, including operating room, anesthesia and laboratory charges.

Dallas educators embraced the idea, with some 75% enrolling in the program. More people would be added to the plan, which expanded to full healthcare coverage and eventually became known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX).

It’s this history of caring and innovation that guides BCBSTX today, the state’s only customer-owned health insurer. Texas born and bred, we are in all of the state’s 254 counties, serving 5 million members.

Our long history of service to our members includes many milestones, including:

  • In 1951, the Catastrophic Illness Endorsement rider was introduced to address the polio epidemic, which hit Texas particularly hard.
  • A year later in 1952, individual coverage was introduced for non-group members who did not receive health insurance through their employers.
  • In 1954, the Catastrophic Illness Endorsement was extended to cover cancer at no additional cost. This is thought to be the first cancer coverage offered anywhere in the world.
  • The company was chosen in 1967 to serve as the Medicaid intermediary for Texas. It was the first in the nation to administer Medicaid on an underwritten basis.
  • In 1991, the Caring for Children Foundation was created to serve the medical needs of uninsured or underinsured children across the state.
  • The C1 Innovation Lab opened in 2017 in downtown Dallas, where the very idea of health insurance first began with Kimball. The 32,000-square-foot facility serves as the company’s primary hub for collaboration, incubation and development of new products and services.

We are grateful to Kimball, the “father of Blue Cross,” as well as many other dedicated leaders who have helped us expand and improve the plan.

Our employees and supporters have been celebrating our 90-year anniversary throughout the year. But before 2019 ends, we wanted to take a moment to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to our members, who are the heart and soul of our mission.

We honor the past and we are ready for the future, one that will involve expanding access to high-quality, affordable health. We’ve always been — and will continue to be — there for our members.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) — the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas — is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 80,000 physicians and healthcare practitioners, and 500 hospitals to serve 5 million members in all 254 counties. BCBSTX is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico), the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth-largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. | | |