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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Alt Contact:  Scott Forslund, Premera Blue Cross, 425-670-5070

Locke hears proposal from health insurance carrier seeking public company status

OLYMPIA — Gov. Gary Locke today met with Premera Blue Cross officials as they laid out a plan seeking to become a publicly-held company. Premera has concluded that access to equity capital available to publicly-held companies would enhance its flexibility and responsiveness in an increasingly demanding health-care marketplace.

“I think it’s a very intriguing idea,” Locke said. “Moving from non-profit status to a publicly held company presents some exciting opportunities for improvements in health care.”

As a non-profit entity, Premera is limited in its ability to raise capital for future investments and growth. Access to equity capital would enable Premera to make continued investments in new products and technology, support an expanding customer base and help deliver more efficient customer service. Premera officials emphasized they will continue to operate as a locally-managed, independent health plan, and that enhancing their capital access will help ensure they can remain that way.

The governor said that he wants to meet with the state Attorney General and Insurance Commissioner to better understand the full implications of Premera’s proposal for consumers and the health care industry.

“I’ll need more information before I can judge whether or not this is a good decision for health care in our state, but at first glance, it looks promising” Locke said.

Several Blue Cross plans around the country have converted to publicly held companies in recent years. Many have found that the creation of sizeable funds can then be targeted at improving the health of the communities the plans serve. Premera proposes that 100 percent of the initial stock in the company support health initiatives in Washington and Alaska.

The company has begun discussions with appropriate state officials and hopes to conclude the process within 18 months.

The Premera companies employ about 3,000 people and provide health care coverage and related services to 1.4 million subscribers and their families in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Premera Blue Cross and its predecessors have operated in Washington since 1933, and in Alaska since 1957.

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