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Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield After 75 Years

 By Chip Bayer

A 75 Year Mission

We still care about people.

When Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield adopted the slogan, “We Care About People,” in the 1970s, it was more than an advertising campaign. It reflected an underlying mission that has sustained the company’s position as a leader in the health insurance industry for 75 years.

“We are a not-for-profit mutual insurance company,” said Mike Brown, retired chief operating officer and Arkansas Blue Cross employee for 43 years. “A for-profit company focuses primarily on increasing value to shareholders. But a mutual company’s shareholders are its customers. It makes it easier to keep your focus. You know who you’re working for. You know who your owner is. Your mission is clear. Bring value to the owners – your customers.”

Founded in 1948, Arkansas Blue Cross is the state’s oldest and largest health insurer. Along with its family of affiliates, it provides healthcare financing services for nearly 2 million people, both in Arkansas and nationally – a distinction it’s managed to maintain through decades of significant change.

“The pace is the thing that has changed the most in my 30 years with the company,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer. “We’ve always worked hard, but today’s pace is very different than when we started. Traditionally, we had a couple of peak times a year, and it would drop off a little bit. We don’t have that anymore. Now the pace is just intense; it’s year-round.”

Significant shifts in the industry include the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, the creation of HMOs and PPOs, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, technological advancements, and problems associated with managing a global pandemic. But a focus on serving customers and a strong sense of civic responsibility to the community has made Arkansas Blue Cross even stronger.

Maintaining the legacy

“The names are different. The faces have changed, but I still see smart, creative, dedicated, ethical people in our company,” said Barnett. “I’m so excited that we’ve been able to maintain that. And we’ve been able to stay close to our customers. At the end of the day, it’s people taking care of people.”

Arkansas Blue Cross is proud to say we have taken care of Arkansans for 75 years and plan to continue a legacy of great service.

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