From the beginning, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has established ourself as an innovator. We´ve forged a path of continuous change in health care with groundbreaking solutions. Now, we're celebrating our 80th anniversary. Scroll down to take a trip through our history.


Blue Cross gets its start

Hospital Services Association (HSA) of St. Paul, later to be called Minnesota Blue Cross, becomes the first health care organization in the United States to offer a prepaid plan covering a group of hospitals.


Blue Cross symbol is born

Elmer Arnold van Steenwyk, the Minnesota Hospital Services Association's first executive director, initiated a marketing plan designed to communicate directly with members through posters placed on bulletin boards in the workplace. The first poster, designed by Joseph Binder from the University of Minnesota, used a blue Geneva cross, long a symbol of relief for those struck by disaster.


HSA becomes MHSA

The organization grew rapidly. Expanding to seven hospitals, the new entity was called Minnesota Hospital Services Administration. More office space was needed and the group acquired space at 2388 University Avenue in the Midway between Minneapolis and St. Paul. It served as Blue Cross' home until 1951.


First plan offering payroll deduction as payment

In the early 1930s, members paid their premiums in cash to a designated group leader at their workplace, who then paid Blue Cross. In 1936, Blue Cross started payroll deduction to make it more convenient for members, streamlining the process and removing barriers.


Blue Cross allowed to be sold statewide

Coverage was extended outside the Twin Cities. Fifteen hospitals outside the metro area joined and 31 more expressed interest.


The Blue Cross symbol is adopted nationwide

With the consent of Blue Cross of Minnesota, the American Hospital Association adopted the Blue Cross symbol as the national emblem representing nonprofit, prepaid, multi-hospital health care plans.


The federal government commends Blue Cross for its war efforts

As men joined the armed services in World War II, the nation's civilian work force was stretched thin. The federal government recognized Blue Cross of Minnesota for helping to reduce the number of civilian work days lost to illness.


Season's Greetings

This photograph was taken at the holiday party in 1943 at the Athletic Club in St. Paul.


Blue Shield is organized

Blue Cross of Minnesota helps Blue Shield get started by providing sales assistance, administrative support, office space and by covering overhead.


Blue Cross Reaches 1 Million Members

As the peace-time economy grew, Blue Cross expanded. By the end of the decade, 150 hospitals joined the network and Blue Cross had 1 million members.


Minnesota Blue Cross and Minnesota Blue Shield offer coverage to individuals

To this point, all coverage was offered to groups, typically through employers or labor unions. In 1950, Blue Cross and Blue Shield offered coverage to individuals who were not eligible to form a group.


First Blue Cross baby

In the mid 1930's, Blue Cross began covering maternity claims. This picture, taken in 1950, features the first child born under Blue Cross coverage. At the time of this snapshot, he was fifteen years old.


Blue Cross builds new headquarters

As enrollment grew, Blue Cross needed more space so a new headquarters opened at 2610 University Avenue in St. Paul. This photo was taken at the groundbreaking in 1951.


Minnesota Blue Shield introduced the J-Plan

The J-Plan extended coverage to a host of services previously not covered such as doctor's visits, X-rays, physical therapy, vaccinations and immunizations.


Contract signed with United States Department of Health

Blue Cross signed the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS), providing extended coverage to medical facilities operated by the military.


Immanuel Hospital: Mankato, MN

Built in 1906, Immanuel Hospital became part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota network in the 1950s as outstate enrollment continued to grow. Immanuel Hospital later merged with St. Joseph's and is now part of the Mayo Clinic system.


Coverage for Major Medical Procedures Is Offered

Until this point, coverage for open-heart surgery and catastrophic illness had not been available. In 1958 both Blue Cross and Blue Shield extended coverage to include these conditions.


Blue Cross Mechanizes Process of Health Care Operations

Working with IBM and Honeywell, Minnesota Blue Cross developed computerized systems that relieved the hospitals' burden of claims processing and billing.


Blue Cross mounts advertising campaign

An increase in competitive advertising prompted Blue Cross to post 200 highway signs alongside every major highway in the state. The signs appeared near towns with Blue Cross hospitals.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield parted and ceased joint operations and collaboration

Disagreements mounted over which entity should cover X-rays and lab services. The conflict was resolved by formally separating the two organizations with each providing these services under their benefit plans, setting them up as competitors.


Blue Cross and Minnesota Indemnity, Inc.

Almost immediately after Blue Cross split from Blue Shield in 1959, Blue Cross began promoting the medical-surgical-obstetrical services offered through its subsidiary, MII. Previously, Blue Shield provided these services.


Blue Cross Celebrates 30th Anniversary

To celebrate 30 years of service, anniversary posters like this one appeared in lobbies throughout the state. This photograph was taken in the First National Bank building in downtown St. Paul.


Blue Cross Initiates Shared Computer System

Blue Cross saw a benefit of having a unified computer system among network hospitals. This innovation improved speed of claims processing but it also improved accuracy. Fifty hospitals were on board by the end of the year.


Medicare supplement plans introduced

These plans covered the deductible and expenses not covered by Medicare, which had caused difficulty for some Medicare recipients. The new plan covered all of the bills for eligible services that Medicare did not cover.


Medallion Plan introduced

This program was designed to give members the most comprehensive care possible. It included preventive care, which helped to prevent hospital stays and provided a complete choice of physicians. This deluxe plan covered many benefits not previously available under any one plan.


Minnesota Blue Cross and Minnesota Blue Shield officially merge

Blue Cross was financially and organizationally in a position to step in and rescue Minnesota Blue Shield, which had become insolvent and faced certain liquidation.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Introduces an HMO Plan for Members

First introduced as Minnesota Health Maintenance Network Plan and later known as HMO Minnesota and ultimately Blue Plus, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota introduced the plan to give members an alternative to the more restrictive HMOs emerging throughout the state.


New Headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota

The new building brought employees under one roof. Until now they had been spread out over five buildings in the Midway area of St. Paul.


Blue Cross Launches Effective Care

To provide coverage for a variety of patient needs, Effective Care encouraged outpatient mental health and chemical dependency treatment when inpatient treatment was deemed unnecessary.


Blue Cross initiates AWARE CARESM, Hospital Reimbursement Program

AWARE CARESM changed the way hospitals were reimbursed. Payments were established for different categories of hospital care and structured around diagnostic related groups. The program decreased group rates by 7%.


Blue Cross Introduces AWARE Gold®

AWARE Gold® was a new plan design, allowing subscribers to pay only a copay and contract deductible for services from an AWARE® provider; with non-AWARE® providers, members paid any amount that exceeded AWARE Gold® payment limits.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota launch the foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation was started as a private, nonprofit foundation aimed at advancing public health and medical research.


Blue Cross introduces BLUE PRINTS FOR HEALTH

Funded in part by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, this program was established to educate Minnesotans on the importance of healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking, exercising and eating a well-balanced diet.


Blue Cross And Delta Dental® Form an Alliance

This alliance provided the opportunity for employers and consumers to receive all of their health and dental care coverage with a single carrier.


Blue Cross Introduces Project HealthVision

This project set up the use of data to measure the effectiveness of treatments. It established the price of reimbursements based on outcomes, which rewarded doctors for positive results.


Blue Cross Sues The Nation's Biggest Tobacco Companies

Along with the state of Minnesota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota took on big tobacco, filing an unprecedented lawsuit on the grounds that the industry deceived consumers about the addictive nature of cigarettes.


Blue Cross scores a legal victory over the tobacco industry

Blue Cross and the State of Minnesota agreed to settlement terms with the tobacco industry, ending a four-month trial. The benefits of this settlement are clear today, as Minnesota enjoys a lower smoking rate than the national average.


Blue Cross Introduces Options BlueSM

Blue Cross coupled health care coverage plans with a health care spending account, giving consumers the tools they needed to take charge of their accounts.


Blue Cross Institutes The Center For Prevention

Using the money from the tobacco lawsuit victory, Blue Cross established the Center for Prevention, an organization dedicated to making an impact on the state's most pressing issues of public health.


Blue Cross Launches the do.® campaign

The do.® Campaign was a multi-media effort that promoted physical activity among adult Minnesotans. The campaign was designed to help people make doable, realistic changes in their lives.


Blue Cross Introduces Simply BlueSM

Simply Blue offered a quality health insurance plan at an affordable cost for the most price sensitive groups in Minnesota, such as young adults starting out on their own.


Freedom to Breathe Act Passes Into Law

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota joined a wide coalition of health organizations and businesses to lobby for passage of this historic law, guaranteeing Minnesotans a smoke-free workplace. Here, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the law into action.


Blue Cross Center for Prevention makes a major funding commitment to establish Nice Ride Minnesota

Nice Ride Minnesota is the nonprofit organization that operates the Twin Cities bike-sharing system. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's Center for Prevention provided a major funding commitment to start the organization, which makes it easy for everyone in the community to ride a bike and feel safe while riding.


Nice Ride Minnesota

Minnesotans took more than 100,000 rides on Nice Ride bikes in the program's first year. Planners from all over the country came to Minnesota to learn from our success.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's Center for Prevention launches do.®Town

An 18-month pilot project in three Minnesota cities, do.®Town was designed to make communities places where the healthy choice is the easy choice. The program asked for input from residents to better understand what barriers they believed existed. It then helped these communities tackle the necessary changes to make it easy for their citizens to adopt healthy choices as part of their daily lives.

Today, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is the largest health plan in the state. We have more members, the largest network of providers, and more products and services than any other plan in Minnesota. Over the last 80 years we have proven our leadership. But we won't stop there. With the 21st century well underway, we look forward to serving Minnesotans over the next 80 years and beyond.