Next CEO of Blue Cross is 'excited about health reform'

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2012 - 9:08 PM

Kenneth Burdick spent more than a decade at UnitedHealth before taking a job in Maryland.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota on Thursday named Maryland insurance executive and former top UnitedHealth Group Inc. manager Kenneth Burdick as its president and CEO, capping a seven-month search.

Burdick, who will take over at Blue Cross on Feb. 16, has spent the past 18 months at Coventry Health Care Inc., a Bethesda, Md.-based company with more than 5 million members. He was senior vice president and CEO of the company's Medicaid and behavioral health businesses.

Burdick said in an interview that he plans to take "full advantage of opportunities created by health care reform" to help Blue Cross evolve into a "health company."

"I'm actually excited about health care reform, rather than somebody who's fearful of it," he said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is Minnesota's largest nonprofit organization as well as the state's largest insurance company, with nearly $9.1 billion in revenue in 2010 and enrollment of about 2.7 million.

Former Chief Executive Patrick Geraghty left the Eagan-based insurer in July to take the helm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.

Burdick, 53, was at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group from 1995 to 2009, and has been living with his family in Minneapolis for the past year and commuting to Maryland.

He was CEO at UnitedHealth's Medicare company, Secure Horizons, in 2008 and 2009, and also spent three years as CEO of UnitedHealthcare's commercial insurance business.

Burdick also has worked in leadership positions at Travelers Cos. and Cigna Corp., and has experience in underwriting, operations, sales and client relationships and marketing. He is a native of Connecticut, and graduated from Amherst College and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

As the dominant health plan in the market, Burdick said Blue Cross already has high name recognition among consumers, many of whom will be making their own health care purchases when health exchanges are up and running in 2014. Exchanges, a key part of federal reform law, would enable individuals and small businesses to compare health insurance plans just as they shop around for airfares.

"I believe we're well positioned for the future," Burdick said. "I don't think if you're the 12th-largest player there's going to be much room for you on that website offering consumers the options."

Vance Opperman, chairman of the Blue Cross board, said in a statement that Burdick has a strong record of growing organizations.

He pointed to Burdick's "unique combination of expertise, understanding of complex health care issues and experience at several large national health care companies."

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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