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Health Care Challenge: Balancing Fairness and Business

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Date and time
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bruce G. Bodaken discusses the choices must we make as a society to give every American an equal chance at a healthy life. As a life-or-death issue, access to health care presents moral issues not faced by most industries. Every day, health plans decide whom to accept for coverage, what therapies to approve, and which providers may deliver medical care. Insurers in our society face a dilemma: the well insured are demanding more tests, high-tech treatments, brand-name drugs, and the right to see more specialists, while some 47 million Americans are uninsured and are at greater risk for debilitating disease and an earlier death. What choices must we make as a society to give every American an equal chance at a healthy life?

Bruce Bodaken is chairman, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California, a 3.3 million member not-for-profit health plan that serves the commercial, individual and government markets in California. A native of Iowa, Mr. Bodaken doesn't fit the typical profile of a health plan CEO. He earned a masters degree and taught philosophy at the college level before embarking on a career in health care. During Mr. Bodaken's eight-year tenure as CEO, Blue Shield has been among the fastest growing health plans in California. Membership and revenues have more than doubled and the company won two large government contracts covering California state employees and U.S. military families enrolled in the TRICARE program. Passionate about his company's not-for-profit mission, in 2002 Mr. Bodaken became the first health plan CEO to offer a specific proposal for universal healthcare coverage. His plan for universal coverage based on shared responsibility is similar to President-elect Obama's current proposal. He also transformed the Blue Shield of California Foundation into one of the state's largest healthcare grantmakers, with nearly $100 million in donations in the past three years. In addition to his work at Blue Shield, Mr. Bodaken serves on numerous professional and civic boards. He is a director of the California Business Roundtable, WageWorks, the University of California, Berkeley's Health Services Management Program, and Youth Tennis Advantage (serving inner-city youth). He is co-author of The Managerial Moment of Truth, published by Simon & Schuster (Free Press) in 2006.