Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma Completes Merger

11-2-05 - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has completed its merger with Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp.

Oklahoma's oldest and largest private health insurer joined HCSC, which also is the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and New Mexico.

Founded in 1936, HCSC employs about 13,000 people and with the merger will serve 10.5 million members. Oklahoma Blue Cross employs 1,200 people in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The deal's completion Tuesday followed a series of steps that began several months ago when the two health insurers began talks as Oklahoma Blue Cross explored the possibility of bringing some of HCSC's group term life products into the state.

"Since we announced our intention to explore an alliance late last year, our two organizations have learned a great deal about each other," said Wyndham Kidd, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, in a written statement. "We believe this merger will best serve our members in Oklahoma and HCSC's members throughout the Southwest and Midwest."

Members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma approved the merger in September, as did HCSC policyholders. The Oklahoma Insurance Department approved the merger in July, and last week state insurance officials in Illinois and Texas gave their approval.

With the merger's completion, HCSC acquires control of Oklahoma Blue Cross and its insurer and HMO subsidiaries, including GHS Fire Insurance Co., GHS Property and Casualty Insurance Co., Member Service Life Insurance Co. and GHS Health Maintenance Organization Inc., doing business as BlueLincs HMO.

All Oklahoma Blue Cross assets, including its investment portfolio and liabilities, also become part of HCSC.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma will retain its name.

Both HCSC and Oklahoma Blue Cross are mutual insurance companies, meaning they are owned by members, not investors. They also are licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Officials with both organizations have said they are committed to remaining mutual.