Continuing a turnover trend among health plan CEOs, Michael Guyette is stepping down in March as chief executive of Eagan-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to take a similar job with an insurance company in California.
Kathleen Blatz, a Blue Cross board member and former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, will serve as interim chief executive at Blue Cross, the insurer announced Tuesday. The nonprofit is the largest provider of health insurance for state residents.
Since taking the top job at Blue Cross in January 2013, Guyette oversaw the insurer’s turbulent transition into insurance markets under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Blue Cross said it lost $500 million in three years in the state’s individual market, which saw big ACA changes, in addition to red ink after the insurer took a bigger role in the state’s Medicaid program.
“During a time of unprecedented change, Mike was able to grow our overall membership and successfully navigate Blue Cross through many complexities and transformations,” said Rita Heise, the current board chair at Blue Cross, in a statement.
Guyette will become chief executive at VSP Global, a vision care business that includes retail, manufacturing and insurance. In a news release, Blue Cross said its board has initiated a search for a new CEO.
Minnesota’s five largest health insurers have seen CEO changes since January 2017: Longtime Chief Executive David Tilford retired from Minnetonka-based Medica; Jim Eppel announced in April that he would be leaving Minneapolis-based UCare for a job with Bloomington-based HealthPartners; longtime Chief Executive Mary Brainerd retired from HealthPartners in June; and Stephen Hemsley stepped down as CEO on Sept. 1 at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.
Before being appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1996, Blatz practiced at a Minneapolis law firm and served as both an assistant county attorney and district court judge in Hennepin County. Blatz was chief justice from 1998 to 2006.
She joined the Blue Cross board of trustees in 2009. For five months last year, Blatz served as interim chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority, which oversees operations of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“Kathleen Blatz is uniquely qualified to lead this organization during the search for a new CEO,” Heise, the board chairwoman, said in a statement.
Blue Cross provides coverage to 2.9 million people in Minnesota and nationally, through its health plans or those from affiliated companies.
Guyette oversaw the launch of Blue Cross’ first retail stores in Minnesota during his tenure. The insurer also invested in new care models and created a working presence at TreeHouse Health in Minneapolis.
But as has been true for other health insurers in recent years, the individual market troubles have eclipsed most other issues. During the summer of 2016, for example, Blue Cross decided to pull its most popular line of products from the individual market for the following year, a move that forced about 100,000 people to find new coverage.
Guyette has ranked among the highest-paid CEOs on the Star Tribune’s annual survey large Minnesota nonprofits. On the 2016 list, he ranked No. 1 in pay with $3.1 million in total compensation for 2016.