Blues Restructures West Michigan Leadership

December 15, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Jeffrey Connolly, new president of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s West Michigan operations, wants local business leaders to know he’s one of them.

“I’m originally from Traverse City. I’m a west-side-of-the-state person,” said Connolly. “I will live on the west side of the state. It’s important from a leadership perspective. When I sit down with business leaders, they’re sitting down with an individual that lives in the community.

“We believe that will add value.”

Connolly, who said he’ll continue to live in Traverse City, will be responsible for the Blues’ business activities in 41 counties in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. He was appointed earlier this month, replacing Dale Robertson, who shifts from vice president-West Michigan to vice president-innovation and emerging markets. Also appointed was Christine Farah, a Detroit-area insurance executive, as vice president-middle and small groups.

BCBS is planning an event early next year to introduce Connolly, former president and CEO of the 1 million-member insurer PPOM, to the local business community.

The state’s largest insurer is hoping that tending the garden in Grand Rapids will help it to expand by meeting unique market needs in West Michigan — where there are 900,000 Blues participants — and in the U.P., he said.

“It’s not so much that Blue Cross has not done an effective job, but as we look to the west side of the state, given where the population is moving to, as well as the economic forecast, we need to make sure that we are well-positioned for the future,” Connolly said.

“What they’ve done well is its social mission, and what we need to frankly do better and respond effectively on the provider side is to identify and service providers, and recognize they will have some differences in their geographic regions, as well as the employers.

“And we feel at Blue Cross that Blue Cross made the right moves by expanding its presence in these communities, that stronger executives’ presence that are local, that are from the area have a better understanding of the intricacies of what needs to happen and when.”

Connolly said he and other local Blues executives will continue to work with advisory committees already in place, as well as working to develop “very, very strong” relationships with health care providers and local employers.

Connolly, a CPA, comes to Blue Cross from Aetna’s Midwest Network Access Business, where he was president and CEO. Connolly started at PPOM in 1994 and served as chief financial officer, controller and then as president and CEO. The Southfield-based PPOM, with more than 1 million members in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, is a preferred provider organization that was a Blue Cross for-profit subsidiary. Blue Cross sold PPOM to HMS Healthcare of Colorado in 2004, and in 2005, Aetna acquired PPOM through its purchase of HMS for $390 million. Connolly was a senior accountant at Deloitte and Touche from 1990 to 1994. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central Michigan University.    

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