Blue Cross chief talks health insurance, not politics

Posted: November 12, 2013

Three weeks ago, Daniel J. Hilferty, 57, president and chief executive of Independence Blue Cross, joined other insurance executives in Washington to meet with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The topic? The massive computer software nightmare that has complicated enrollment in the new health insurance exchanges and set off a war of partisan sniping in Washington.

Question: What's your reaction to the glitches and what did you tell the White House?

Answer: It's disappointing. The CEOs articulated our concerns - both that we believe reform is right and this is hurting our chances for bringing in as many new people into the plan.

Q: You offered to help, right?

A: The industry is willing to help the administration by giving them [computer] specs. We take them on their word that the fixes will be in place by late November.

Q: The politics around the Affordable Care Act is intense.

A: We're not into that fray. For better or worse, that'll take care of itself. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. If we just keep our heads down, do our part and enroll as many folks as possible, then collectively - Democrats, Republicans, industry, health-care systems, patients, clinicians - we can fix it. So I choose not to play the political game. Some day, I'd love to have a beer and talk politics off the record.

Q: What kind of beer?

A: I like Corona with a twist of lime.

Q: What surprised you about the response to the Affordable Care Act?

A: I had no clue of the volume or the magnitude of the interest in options - from folks who will be on the subsidized exchange [and from] the commercial marketplace, businesses we talked to. I was surprised by the magnitude of the interest. I was surprised by the magnitude of the glitches.

Q: Now the push is for market share, to sign up as many people as possible. Strategy?

A: We have a 75-year tradition of being in the communities we serve. When we make a call - if it's to a church group, or a community group, or a Lions Club, or the Eagles - people are receptive. We have interacted with half a million people on this topic since early summer.

Q: What gets you excited in the field of medical innovation?

A: The only way to change and improve the quality and make health care more efficient is if everybody involved in the system is looking at the same data. That's exciting to me - the possibilities of data telling a story, and then, intervening in the health of individuals.

Q: Isn't insurance boring?

A: I think it's interesting because it's like this Rubik's cube of risk and trying to find the best way to serve your customers and get the best product and the best access to care, but do it within limited resources that you have from premium payments or contracts with the government.

Q: So, on car insurance, do you have full tort?

A: That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that.

Q: So you don't handle insurance for your family?

A: My wife does.

Quick hits:

 Q: You work for the Blues. Can you sing?

A: I can't even keep a beat. When Joan [his wife] and I are in a concert and she's keeping a beat, I have to touch her so that I can keep a beat. I do sing in the shower and the curtain will open and she'll say, "You're combining two songs."

Q: Biggest regret?

A: I love basketball and when I turned 50, I quit.


Title: President,

chief executive, Independence

Blue Cross.

Hometown: Ardmore.

Family: Wife, Joan; children, Coeli, 27, Maris, 26, Dan (the fourth), 23, John, 18, Matthew, 16.


St. Augustine Prep, Atlantic County;

St. Joseph's University, accounting; American University, master's in public administration.

Resumé: Government affairs at Mercy Health System. Led AmeriHealth Mercy (now AmeriHealth Caritas), IBC's Medicaid subsidiary.

Defeat: Ran and lost, Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, 1994.


Headquarters: Philadelphia.

Business: Health insurance, claims administration in

24 states.

2012 revenue:

$10.5 billion.

2012 net income: $191.5 million.


7,472 in 2012.


7 million nationally,

2.2 in the region.


Daniel Hilferty on recognizing leadership (his own).

215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen


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