Blue Cross to Use Thrift, Not ILC

By Adler, Joe | American Banker, February 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Blue Cross to Use Thrift, Not ILC


Adler, Joe, American Banker


WASHINGTON -- The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is dropping plans to charter an industrial loan company, and on Tuesday it said it will open a federal thrift March 1.

Blue HealthCare Bank of Sandy, Utah, will offer health savings accounts to the Chicago insurer's customers. The thrift will focus initially on insurance plans in four states -- Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina, and Michigan -- and then will expand to 12 to 15 additional plans within the year.

"The purpose is to provide a seamless experience for consumers as they make health-care choices," Robert C. Gross, Blue HealthCare Bank's president and chief executive officer, said in an interview before a conference call with reporters. "They're positioned to have a greater say in their overall coverage while bringing their overall costs lower."

The thrift, capitalized at $70.7 million, also will offer check, debit card, and online bill payment services. It will administer employer benefits such as flexible spending accounts.

Blue HealthCare projects that its deposits will top $500 million by 2010. It will invest deposits in investment grade securities, at least 55% of which initially will be in mortgage-backed securities, Mr. Gross said. "We plan currently not to be involved in credit or lending products."

The thrift, approved by the Office of Thrift Supervision in December and by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Jan. 17, is a change of course for the health-care giant, which had planned to offer accounts through an ILC before the furor over Wal-Mart Stores Inc. …

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