BCBSOK Celebrates 75 Years in Oklahoma

Have you heard? Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) is celebrating 75 years as Oklahoma’s oldest and largest private health insurer!

Inspired by the success of a health plan that began at the Baylor Medical Center, Dr. James Stevenson of Tulsa, nicknamed “the father of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma,” and Dr. Harry Turner of Oklahoma City pioneered pre-paid health care in the state. The organizers needed startup money of $10,000 to launch their new enterprise. They agreed that the first city—Oklahoma City or Tulsa—to come up with its $5,000 share would get the company’s headquarters. Tulsa won, largely due to the charm of Dr. Stevenson.

We started as “Group Hospital Services of Oklahoma” and opened its doors on March 15, 1940 in the Tulsa Loan Building in downtown Tulsa. The first health plans were effective on April 1, 1940 and soon after, we adopted the Blue Cross name and logo. The Blue Shield Companion Plan, initially known as Oklahoma Physician’s Services, was established in 1945. By the 1950s, our membership was soaring, and the company had grown from 13 employees in 1945 to 130 in 1952. Ground was broken in March 1953 for a new building at 1215 S. Boulder in Tulsa. Much of the member growth in the 1950s is attributed to the company’s Community Enrollment Program that was established in 1953. Two booth trailers were purchased in 1956 to serve as mobile enrollment offices.

This “mobile” enrollment concept is one that we are still utilizing more than 50 years later. The Mobile Assistance Center (MAC) allows Oklahomans to receive one-on-one assistance with health insurance like never before. It is a fully equipped mobile kiosk designed to accommodate multiple customers at once, with the ability to provide customer service with the help of six secure docked iPads—get it? Mobile mobiles.

The MAC and its team of community outreach specialists will be on the road to a healthier Oklahoma as it travels to events and locations in rural and tribal communities throughout the state in 2015 and beyond.

We operated for more than 30 years as separate entities with shared management and staff, until 1973, when the two merged into Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma. Health care plans have continued to grow and change with the public interest in mind. An emphasis and strong commitment on the health and welfare of all Oklahomans and the state’s communities have remained a priority for BCBSOK.

Today, we have more than 850,000 members and nearly 1,100 loyal Oklahoman employees. We are excited to be sharing this special time with you, and working hard to address the health challenges facing the state. And making Oklahoma a healthier place to live and work. We’re proud to celebrate our 75th anniversary with our thousands of members across the state and look forward to continue to make great achievements in Oklahoma’s health and wellness.

Want to get in on the celebrations?
Share your healthy happy moments with us at #BCBSOK75