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Excellus sees sharp drop in net income during pandemic year


Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield is reporting a sharp decline in net income last year, as the health insurance company grappled with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. But the organization’s leaders say it continues to be financially stable.

Excellus, which is headquartered in Rochester and has operations across upstate New York saw earnings of $97.2 million in 2020, which is 43% less than the $170.8 million in net income in 2019.

“No one has ever faced a year like 2020,” said Chris Booth, the chief executive officer of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “The COVID-19 crisis required a strong and comprehensive response to assure our members were able to receive the care they needed and to help assure the health care system itself would survive. The pandemic devastated the economy and sickened tens of thousands of upstate residents.”

Booth said that Excellus took steps to help members, provider partners and others cope with the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the programs Excellus funded to help subscribers and providers deal with the restrictions by the pandemic is spending $102 million to pay for increased telemedicine coverage and increase provider reimbursement rates.

In terms of compensation for its top executives, it stayed relatively flat in 2020 compared to 2019. CEO Chris Booth, who is retiring this coming May, earned $3.2 million last year, similar to his compensation the previous year.

Excellus reported $1.2 billion in health plan reserves at the end of 2020, which is the equivalent of 70 days of claims and expenses.  Last year they reported $1.4 billion in reserves. Those reserves are used for unforeseen higher expenses such as the pandemic, or lower revenue.

Excellus saw total membership grow by more than 13,000 new members during 2020, the 4th consecutive year membership has grown. Total membership is more than 1.5 million.

The chairwoman of the Excellus Board of Directors, Marianne Gaige, said that the organization “continues to be a well-run health plan and the company’s performance reflects that.” Gaige said that Excellus has a “financially responsible margin” to assure  that it continues as a major partner for health care providers and a major employer in upstate New  York.

Vice President of Communications for Excellus, Jim Redmond, said that the company has been able to continue operations without having to furlough staffers. Most of them are working remotely. Excellus has about 3,700 employees across the upstate area, with about half of them located in the Rochester area.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.