After more than a year of turnover in the top office, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota on Monday named Aetna's Michael Guyette as its new CEO.

Guyette, who takes over on Jan. 7, has been working in the health care industry for more than two decades. The Rhode Island native joined Aetna in May of 2010 and since Jan. 3, 2011, has been head of national accounts at the $32 billion publicly traded insurer.

Guyette said the pull of returning to "the Blues" sparked his interest in leading Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Minnesota's largest nonprofit organization. He spent eight years at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, where he was a senior vice president.

"I like the mission of a Blue plan, staying connected to the community, improving health and access," he said by phone from West Hartford, Conn., where Aetna is headquartered. "I'm glad to be back in the nonprofit world."

Eagan-based Blue Cross, with revenue of nearly $9.3 billion in 2011, has been without a long-term leader since the company replaced previous CEO Kenneth Burdick in July.

Burdick had been in the post less than six months, filling a position left when Patrick Geraghty departed in August 2011 for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

In replacing Burdick, Blue Cross Board Chairman Vance Opperman cited a "difference in culture," and said the company needed to act swiftly at a time when federal health reform efforts were prompting unprecedented changes in the industry.

Burdick had been a manager at Maryland-based Coventry Health Care and UnitedHealth Group, two for-profit organizations.

In a statement, Opperman said Guyette "has demonstrated great leadership and strategic focus in his previous roles, and given his strong health industry experience, he is ideally suited to take the helm of the state's largest health plan in today's fast-paced, dynamic environment."

Scott Lynch, who had been serving as interim CEO, will remain senior vice president and chief legal officer.

With the major tenets of the federal health law rolling out in 2014, Guyette said time is of the essence in getting to know the leadership team. Blue Cross, along with Minnesota's other health plans, faces an Oct. 1 deadline to be ready to sign up individuals and small businesses on insurance exchanges.

Guyette said the organization "has done a lot of work already" and that he plans to bring his expertise in operations, sales, marketing and underwriting to bear.

"Health care continues to change very rapidly," he said. "We want to make sure we have the right strategy for the next three to five years."

Guyette has a degree in finance from the University of North Texas and an MBA from Villanova University. He and his wife of nearly 21 years plan to start house hunting soon, he said. Their children are ages 16, 15 and 10.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335