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Affiliation Agreement with Highmark Inc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated June 16, 2020

What was announced and what does it mean?

  • We’ve announced an agreement to affiliate with Highmark, marking a key milestone to bring together our two not-for-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans to better serve our community
  • This is subject to regulatory approvals, which is expected to take several months to complete
  • Once regulatory approval is received, we will become an affiliate of Highmark, but our location and mission as a not-for-profit health plan will not change
  • It’s important for our members to know this will have no impact on their coverage through their plan year and will only enable us to offer greater value and service in the future

Who is Highmark?

  • Highmark is the fourth largest Blue plan in the nation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, serving 4.5 million members in western and northeastern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware
  • Like our health plan, Highmark is a not-for-profit, mission-driven health care company with a similar culture and a strong track record of delivering exceptional coverage and service

Will the company change its name?

  • When approved, we will operate as Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York

Will your company be relocated?

  • Highmark’s corporate headquarters building is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but we will continue to maintain our local headquarters and strong community presence in Northeastern New York

Why are you doing this?

  • We have reached a critical point in our industry, where members, employers and providers – facing an increasingly uncertain health care environment and rising costs – are looking for new and innovative approaches to managing health care
  • The current time was ideal for us to expand our capabilities through Highmark’s resources, tools and advanced technologies
  • This affiliation will create better health solutions that can control costs, increase customer and clinician engagement, create better health outcomes, and improve affordability

What does this mean for members?

  • This affiliation will bring many positive opportunities to our members in the future, but will not result in any immediate changes or disruption
  • We are committed to maintaining our strong local presence in our community, as a community-based, not-for-profit health plan, an employer and corporate citizen

Will my benefits change?

  • No, your benefits will remain the same throughout your plan year
  • Through this partnership, you will have access to greater health management tools, resources and products in the future

Will I need to change doctors?

  • No, your benefits will remain the same throughout your plan year
  • With both companies operating as licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, you will continue to have access to the Blue Cross Blue Shield network of doctors and hospitals in all 50 states

Will I get a new member ID Card?

  • No, members will continue to use their current member ID card for the immediate term

Did the pandemic have any impact on this decision?

  • Our discussions with Highmark occurred well before COVID-19 started to impact our community, but this affiliation will further strengthen us to be ready for when unexpected changes occur in health care

Will there be any job losses?

  • Highmark has made a commitment to maintain a local headquarters and a strong presence in Northeastern New York

What about your Unionized employees?

  • With over 4,475 union employees across its Highmark footprint, and labor-based clients with a combined 359,000 members, Highmark recognizes the importance of honoring existing collective bargaining agreements
  • We will proudly continue operating as the only Western New York-based health plan with a unionized workforce

Will this create new jobs in our area?

  • Our plan is to maintain a strong local presence and to provide innovative products and services to drive growth in those areas
  • While it’s too early to say if new jobs will be added, once current employees become part of Highmark, they will have the benefit of access to more opportunities for growth and advancement across a larger organization

Will this impact premiums?

  • Premiums reflect the cost of care in the local markets we serve and will continue to reflect local claims costs
  • As we have throughout our history as a not-for-profit Blues, we will continue to target the underlying drivers of health care, and even more so with the power of Highmark behind us

What happens next?

  • During this time, we will seek to receive approvals from regulators to complete this affiliation
  • This process is expected to take several months to complete
  • We continue to stay focused on serving our members while this work is underway

What will happen when the deal is finalized?

  • Members will continue to have access to the - Blue Cross Blue Shield network and benefits
  • Over time, members will benefit from Highmark’s advanced resources, technology and health care solutions

How will I know if this is approved?

  • Regular important updates will be posted on our website throughout this process
  • You can also call our team at the number on the back of your member ID card if you have any questions