CEO: GuideWell, Not FL Blue, Our Focus
Any doubt that Florida’s largest health insurer wants to expand its reach was quashed by its chief executive Wednesday, when he heralded the success of its new umbrella company and outlined ambitious plans for growth.
GuideWell, launched as a parent of Florida Blue, reaches more than 15 million people through its insurance, consumer, health care and government administration products, Chairman and CEO Pat Geraghty told participants at the Medifuture conference in Tampa.
Less than half are traditional Florida Blue policy holders.
“We’re not here to be the best plan in Florida. We’re here to be the best health solutions company in the United States, Geraghty said. “Our goal is big. It’s bold. And we’ve been very outspoken about it since word one.”
Florida Blue, established in 1944, remains the company’s main product, he said. A desire to make new investments and partner with entrepreneurial startups led to the move of $1.6 billion in capital from Florida Blue to create GuideWell, he said.
And the company’s clearly redirecting its message and branding toward GuideWell, which it quietly introduced earlier this year and describes as “a family of forward-thinking companies focused on helping people and communities achieve better health.”
Signs, nametags and introductions of staff at the three-day Medifuture conference highlighted GuideWell and made very little mention of Florida Blue. Instead, conference participants saw GuideWell’s social media team livestream interviews from a pop-up TV studio. A massive GuideWell exhibit offered tours of products it and outside partners have created for the home, office and retail clinics.
“Innovation at Guidewell is at the top of the list,” Geraghty said. “This is what we are focused on in so many ways. And we do it through lots of partnerships.”
Geraghty, one of the event’s keynote speakers, says GuideWell’s recent growth can be attributed another of its interests: Diversified Service Options Inc. into 12 states. The company serves as an administrator for government Medicare and Medicaid contracts in Florida and 12 other states.
“Pretty quietly, we now have a customer base of 15.5 million people, even though people think about us as Florida Blue,” he said. “That’s ok by us. We don’t have to have the big notice around that. But we are growing dramatically.”
Though much of Geraghty’s 20-minute speech focused on the future, he was clear that the company wants to retain its hold as Florida’s largest health insurance company. But, he said, that will be done using less-traditional approaches.
For example, reaching consumers through the company’s retail centers is behind the signup of an addition 339,000 Floridians in health plans offered as part of the Affordable Care Act, he said. In three years, the number of Florida Blue retail locations has grown from four to 18.
“It’s about engagement. It’s about the customer,” he said of the focus on brick-and- mortar stores. “And what we have is a product that’s been historically complex and impersonal. And this is a time of retail.”
Along the same lines, Geraghty said the company will continue creating its own health care facilities, such as a GuideWell emergency medicine practice in Orlando, he said. It’s also made a significant investment at the Lake Nona medical community near Orlando.
“We have a full docket of tough issues to be addressed in health care that we’re going… We’ll be inviting people from around the country to be part of that as well as we go forward,” he said. “Why? Because we want to be a thought leader in health and health care.”
--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Mary Shedden at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at email@example.com. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.