Press Release

February 24, 2021

 

DFS APPROVES HEALTHNOW NEW YORK INC.’S AFFILIATION WITH HIGHMARK SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS TO PROTECT NEW YORKERS

Highmark and HealthNow New York Inc. Make Significant Commitments to Preserve Jobs and Address Health Disparities in Western New York and Northeastern New York

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) announced today it has approved Highmark Inc. and Highmark Health’s application to affiliate with HealthNow New York Inc., a New York not-for-profit Article 43 organization (BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York), following an extensive review of the application by DFS in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health. DFS approved the affiliation subject to a number of conditions to which Highmark and HealthNow have agreed, including employee protections and a $10 million commitment to improve racial and health inequities in Western New York and Northeastern New York.

“In response to concerns raised about the impact of the affiliation on the Western New York region, DFS has obtained significant commitments from HealthNow and Highmark to address those concerns, consistent with HealthNow’s mission as a not-for-profit health plan to serve its members, local providers and the community,” said Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell. “DFS will use its authority to ensure that Highmark and HealthNow live up to their promises to preserve jobs and improve health disparities in Western and Northeastern New York, which are particularly critical as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread and claim lives throughout the country, access to high-quality, affordable health insurance is more important than ever,” said Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “We are satisfied that the commitments we, working with our partners at DFS, have obtained from HealthNow and Highmark will ensure that the new combined company will continue to serve its members, local providers and the community, as HealthNow has done to date.”

As a condition to DFS’s approval of the affiliation, HealthNow and Highmark have made important commitments to protect New Yorkers, including:

  • HealthNow and Highmark will ensure that, for three years after the closing of the affiliation, HealthNow employees representing almost all of HealthNow’s workforce will not be laid off as a result of the affiliation.
  • HealthNow and Highmark will expend at least two million dollars ($2,000,000) per year for each of the next five years to improve racial and health inequities in the Western New York and Northeastern New York markets. HealthNow will consult with legislators and representatives of local constituencies, health care providers and community organizations and in good faith take their feedback into account prior to making such expenditures. HealthNow and Highmark will publish annually a list of each such expenditure, including the name of each entity receiving funds, their intended use and the amount of the disbursement to each entity, which will be reported to the Board of Directors of HealthNow, provided to DFS, published on the HealthNow website, and provided to organizations and persons consulted regarding the uses of the funds.

Following the affiliation, HealthNow will change its legal name to “Highmark Western and Northeastern New York Inc” and its d/b/a names to “Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York” and “Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York.”  HealthNow policyholders’ benefits and premiums will remain the same after the affiliation, until the applicable policy renewal date.  DFS will continue to exercise its broad authority to conduct examinations of HealthNow and any entity within its holding company structure, including Highmark Inc. and Highmark Health, and will take every action necessary to ensure the accuracy of all representations and the satisfaction of all commitments made to DFS as part of its approval of the affiliation.

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