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Burrell to retire from CareFirst next year

Carefirst CEO Chet Burrell (File)

Carefirst CEO Chet Burrell (File)

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Chet Burrell will retire from the insurer next year, the company announced Friday.

Burrell has held the role with the company since December 2007 and will leave in the middle of 2018.

“A decade of service to the mission of CareFirst has, for me, passed quickly,” Burrell told CareFirst employees in his announcement. “No matter the demands, it was never ‘work’ to me, as I felt drawn forward by our organization’s purpose, by our mission, by our cause.”

Before joining CareFirst, Burrell worked as an executive with several health care technology and consulting companies, including RealMed and Novalis, which he founded. He also worked for BlueCross BlueShield organizations in New York and in several positions in New York state government.

“Chet joined the company at a critical juncture for the organization and led a transformational makeover of the organization, our programs and technology that has allowed us to dramatically improve
how we serve our members and navigate a turbulent time in health care,” said Stephen L. Waechter, chair of CareFirst’s board. “At the same time, he brought a passionate, thoughtful approach to the role of fulfilling our company’s not-for-profit mission that has benefited all of the communities we serve.”

Burrell carries a reputation as a steady hand and a trusted voice within the industry. During his tenure, health insurance underwent a significant transformation with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the creation of the individual health exchanges.

“I would say first and foremost that (Burrell) has been a very calming and stabilizing force at CareFirst,” Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer said. “Leading the dominant insurer in the state, I think (Burrell) did an admirable job of being a fiduciary for CareFirst while accepting the statewide leadership role of trying to make decisions that were in the best interest of the state. It’s a fine line.”

As CareFirst CEO, Burrell has had to defend rate requests on the individual exchange, including this year when the insurer requested an average premium hike greater than 50 percent. But Redmer found him to be a reliable source and a good collaborator throughout the process.

“Certainly, (Burrell) has been a good guy to deal with,” Redmer said. “He’s been responsive. He always gives you the information you ask for.”

CareFirst’s board will launch a nationwide search for Burrell’s successor.

“In searching for a successor, we will seek an executive with the skills and experience to both lead the organization, and help us meet our unique not-for-profit mission,” Waechter said.

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