Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) Shifting Top Blue Plans Executives

BlueCross Blue Shield Plans: Access Market Intelligence

Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company (HCSC), and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest customer-owned health insurer in the United States, serving nearly 17 million members through its Blue Cross and Blue Shield® Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

HCSC affiliates and subsidiaries such as Dearborn Group®, Medecision and Dental Network of America offer group life, disability and dental solutions, as well as a range of other individual solutions. 

A key strength of HCSC continues to be the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand and license under which it markets its products in Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, and Oklahoma which has helped the company to command a top market position in each of these states.

Dr. Opella Ernest, chief operating officer, takes on a new role effective immediately as executive vice president, HCSC Commercial Markets, succeeding Jeff Tikkanen, who announced he will retire from HCSC in March 2023. Mike Frank, senior vice president, Pharmacy and Ancillary Business, will become senior vice president, chief operating officer. Dr. Ernest and Frank will report to Maurice Smith, president and CEO of HCSC.

Jeff Tikkanen, executive vice president, Commercial Markets, will transition to an advisory role focused on market initiatives including national account strategy and key client relationships until his retirement in March 2023.

Dr. Opella Ernest will take on her new role, effective immediately, as executive vice president, HCSC Commercial Markets. As our former chief operating officer, Dr. Ernest helped reshaped our customer and provider experience through advancements in technology and innovation. In her new role, Dr. Ernest assumes responsibility for the company’s five BCBS health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas as well as national account growth, clinical and pharmacy operations and analytics.

Mike Frank, senior vice president Pharmacy and Ancillary Business, will become senior vice president, chief operating officer, reporting to Dr. Ernest. In his new role, Mike will lead HCSC’s IT and Customer Service organizations. Frank joined HCSC in 2013 when BCBSMT became part of the company. Since that time as SVP, Tri-State plans, he provided strategic oversight on how HCSC served members in our Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Montana, New Mexico and Oklahoma as well as expanding our pharmacy solutions and better understanding of our customer service needs.

The Illinois division has 8.9 million members, who comprise a little more than one half of HCSC’s total enrollment. The Texas division has nearly 6 million members and primarily serves the large local market segment. The New Mexico division has over 574,000 members, the Oklahoma division has approximately 846,000 members, and the Montana division covers around 240,000 members.

Blue Cross and Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), with approximately 9 million members, announced Stephen Harris has been named the new Illinois president. Stephen will succeed Steve Hamman, who has left the company to pursue new endeavors. He will begin this new position immediately. During his time at HCSC, he led the company’s Medicaid line of business; responsible for driving growth, operational excellence, and financial performance.

Stephania Grober, vice president, Oklahoma Plan, has been selected as the incoming president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK), effective May 1, 2022. Grober will replace current BCBSOK president Dr. Joseph Cunningham who will retire on May 1, 2022. Grober currently serves as vice president of Oklahoma Plan Operations overseeing network contracting, government relations and health care management.


Takeaway: HCSC making leadership changes to help the organization remain the market leader in all five of its Blue branded states