Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blue Cross Reorganizing to Trim Costs; Jacksonville-Based Insurer Looking for Ways to Be More Efficient; Job Cuts Included

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Blue Cross Reorganizing to Trim Costs; Jacksonville-Based Insurer Looking for Ways to Be More Efficient; Job Cuts Included

Article excerpt

Byline: URVAKSH KARKARIA

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is undergoing a corporate overhaul, including job cuts, to wring excess from its expense sheet.

The Jacksonville-based insurer hopes to snip administrative costs by 5 to 8 percent per customer per month in 2006, said Deborah Williams, vice president of learning and organizational effectiveness programs. Blue Cross has 7.1 million customers, mostly in Florida.

Health insurers are finding themselves squeezed by dual pressures -- rising medical costs and customers clamoring for competitive premiums.

The restructuring will help Blue Cross, which employs roughly 9,300 employees statewide, including about 8,000 locally, better prepare for those challenges.

"We're constantly looking for ways to be more effective, more efficient," Williams said.

While unable to completely control medical costs, i.e. the claims paid out, company executives say they can better manage administrative costs.

In 2004, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida experienced the strongest balanced performance in company history, according to a fact sheet on its Web site. The company reported consolidated total revenue of $6.49 billion and net income of $297.3 million. Philip Boyce, a former Blue Cross executive who has observed the company for 20 years, said the reorganization includes re-evaluating job skills, reconfiguring how routine tasks are done and how the company deals with customers.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Boyce, who is senior vice president of managed care at Baptist Health.

The job reorganization, an ongoing process occurring across several departments, will mean cutbacks in some areas and additions in others, Blue Cross officials said.

"I don't think it's limited to one area," Williams said. "Constantly, managers and leaders are held accountable for making sure they are appropriately organized and they have the right people."

Cost-cutting also led Blue Cross to trim an average of one work week of paid time off annually. Starting Dec. 31, workers will accrue between 18 and 32 days of paid time off annually. …

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