Northern Illinois University Press

The Blues

A History of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield System

Robert Cunningham III and Robert M. Cunningham Jr.

Foreword by Rosemary A. Stevens

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield system began modestly in two simple efforts to meet workers' needs. The Blue Cross story began in 1929, when an official at Baylor University in Dallas introduced to teachers a plan to cover up to twenty-one days of hospital care for $6 a year. In the meantime, the Blue Shield concept had originated in the lumber and mining camps of the Pacific Northwest, where at the turn of the century some camp owners provided medical care for workers by paying physicians monthly fees.

Often regarded as uniquely American because of its grassroots organization, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield system is actually a network of independent, locally operated insurance companies. The growth of these community-based Blue Plans has fluctuated with the broader economic, social, and political changes and with the national search for cost-effective health care. In a sense, the history of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans is the history of health insurance in America.

This first complete history of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield system tells the story of America's largest and oldest health insurers, from their beginnnings to the turbulent 1990s. Drawing on extensive company archives, Robert Cunningham III and Rober M. Cunningham Jr. trace the development of the Blues' system and show how its management has pursued the goal of health care coverage over seven decades of social and economic change. Highly readable, this volume will interest all those who are concerned with the past and future of American health care.

(1997) 324 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-224-4
cloth $40.00

Table of Contents

1 Prepayment Pioneers
2 The Doctors' Dilemma
3 The 1940s: Challenges of Growth
4 The 1950s: Burdens of Leadership
5 The Double Bind: Health Care for the Elderly
6 The Intermediaries
7 The 1970s: Accountability and Discontent
8 The 1980s: Swimming with the Sharks
9 Old Wine, New Bottles
Works Cited

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-224-4
cloth $40.00