- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Maryland and the District’s largest health insurer, named Chester Burrell as its new chief executive officer yesterday.

Mr. Burrell was selected over interim CEO David D. Wolf, who served in that position for nearly a year. The company’s search ended in a “photo finish” between the two, but Mr. Burrell got the nod for his expertise in health information technology, said Michael R. Merson, chairman of CareFirst’s board of directors.

“Health plans, hospitals and consumers are all rapidly changing to reshape the industry,” Mr. Merson said. “Our board believed we would be better suited to have a person working for the last five years in technology to be prepared for these changes.”

Mr. Burrell, 60, is currently CEO of RealMed Corp., an Indianapolis company that provides online claims-processing services for health care payers and providers.

Before his work with RealMed, he was chairman and CEO of Novalis Corp., which supplies administrative, management and computing services to physician networks and managed care companies.

In addition to his technology background, he has more than 25 years of experience in the public and private health care industry. He was a former executive vice president of Anthem Health Plans, president of the Albany division of Empire BlueCross BlueShield and CEO of Blue Cross of Northeastern New York.

Mr. Burrell said that future technology advancements could help the Owings Mills, Md., health insurer eliminate paper and give consumers more secure access to health information. He will take over on Dec. 1

CareFirst is the state’s largest health insurer, with more than 2 million members, and is a dominant presence in the Mid-Atlantic region. CareFirst hired the recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International in February to conduct a nationwide search for its next CEO. The 10-month search led to 23 candidates.

Mr. Burrell will replace William Jews, who left CareFirst in November 2006 after eight years at the helm. Mr. Jews attracted criticism for a 2001 deal to convert the company to a for-profit operation and sell it for $1.3 billion as well as his personal compensation plan, which totaled $39 million. Since his departure, Mr. Wolf, the insurer’s executive vice president of medical affairs and corporate development, has acted as interim CEO. Mr. Wolf will return to his role as vice president of medical affairs and corporate development.

In addition to advancing the company’s health information technology capabilities, Mr. Burrell will oversee an effort to reaffiliate CareFirst with BlueCross BlueShield of Delaware, according to Mr. Merson. The combination with the Delaware plans was part of Mr. Jews’ rebuilding effort in 1993 that reshaped CareFirst as a prosperous regional insurer — before that the company was facing insolvency.

In September 2006, the two companies parted ways by order of Delaware’s insurance commissioner, who feared CareFirst’s plan to become a for-profit company would undercut Delaware’s presence on the board.

“Last year was a period we had to work through and get over,” Mr. Merson said. “Delaware plans continue to have a strong working relationship with CareFirst.”

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