Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced Wednesday that company insider Dana Erickson will serve as the next chief executive of the state's largest nonprofit health plan.
A member of the senior leadership team at Eagan-based Blue Cross since 2019, Erickson joined the health insurer as senior director of care management in 2015 before ascending to vice president of that same division the following year.
When Erickson starts as CEO on Monday, she will become the fifth chief executive at Blue Cross since 2011.
She takes the top job at a time when Blue Cross and other nonprofit insurers — which for decades have dominated the state's health plan market — are seeing increased competition from for-profit carriers, including Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare.
There's also been speculation some health insurers using the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brands will face consolidation pressures in the coming years.
"After a rigorous national search for our next CEO, we were thrilled to find the strongest candidates right here in Minnesota, with the right choice being inside our Blue Cross family," Michael Robinson, chair of the board of trustees for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, said in a statement.
Prior to working at Blue Cross, Erickson, 48, held clinical and leadership roles at a home health company called Univita Health as well as at Optum Health, which is one of three businesses within the health services division at UnitedHealthcare's parent company.
Blue Cross says she has worked as a registered nurse and as a registered respiratory therapist, caring for patients as well as leading rehabilitation center operations.
Noting her background as a health care provider, Robinson said the new CEO "uniquely understands the impact a health plan has on individual lives."
Erickson will become the first woman to hold the top spot at Blue Cross on a permanent basis.
Women have held the CEO job for many years at Bloomington-based HealthPartners, another nonprofit health plan in Minnesota, yet reports in recent years have documented gender gaps in leadership positions across the insurance and health care industries.
Since 2019, Erickson has led 600 employees in the health-services division at Blue Cross, which oversees everything from racial and health equity to provider relations and pharmacy/medical management.
The division includes more than 250 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, many of whom coordinate care for health-plan members. The unit also negotiates payment rates with health care providers.
Last year, health services developed a new payment arrangement with Minneapolis-based Allina Health System. It oversaw a Blue Cross joint venture launched in 2019 to operate 20 primary care clinics with Robbinsdale-based North Memorial Health System.
In a statement, Erickson said the health insurer is "strongly positioned to advance our strategic priorities to maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of our members, address inequities throughout the health care system and ensure that high quality care and coverage are within reach for all."
Blue Cross employs about 3,400 people. Last year, the health insurer posted $183.2 million of operating income on about $6.6 billion of revenue, according to a Star Tribune review of regulatory filings. The margin, which was an improvement over the previous year's operating loss, was driven largely by a legal settlement over payments to carriers with the federal Affordable Care Act.
Erickson will assume responsibilities of president and CEO next month from Kathleen Blatz, who has been serving as the interim CEO since April following the retirement of Craig Samitt. He served as chief executive for less than three years.
Erickson studied social work at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She and her husband live in Blaine; they have two daughters who attend college.