SAN FRANCISCO - Leon E. Panetta, a distinguished public servant and former Chief of Staff to President Clinton, has been appointed to the board of directors of Blue Shield of California.
"I have long desired to participate in the ongoing evolution of the nation's health care system," said Panetta. "The system is complex, stressed, and in need of new thinking. Some of its problems, such as the growing number of uninsured, have reached crisis proportions.
"I have chosen to serve on the board of Blue Shield because it is a not-for-profit health plan. Free of the burden shareholder demands, Blue Shield is able to think long-term and act in the best interest of the entire community."
Panetta is best known for serving as Chief of Staff to President Clinton from 1994 until 1997. He was the principal negotiator of the successful 1996 budget compromise, and was widely praised for bringing order and focus to White House operations and policy making.
Previously, he had a long and notable career as a California Congressman. Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1977, he was chairman of the House Committee on the Budget from 1989 to 1993. Among many achievements, he was a key participant in the 1990 budget summit.
Panetta first went to Washington in 1966, serving as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California. In 1969, he became Special Assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and then Director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for enforcement of equal education laws. His book Bring Us Together (1971) was an account of that experience.
With his wife Sylvia, Panetta currently co-directs the Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. The institute prepares students to grapple with public policy challenges in the 21st century. It is based at California State University at Monterey Bay, a university Panetta helped establish on the site of the former Fort Ord military base.
"As a major not-for-profit health plan, Blue Shield is focused on the long-term welfare of the entire community, not just its members," said Panetta. "I'm eager to contribute as much as I can. After all, health care is one of the most pressing issues our society faces today."
"Leon Panetta brings us an enormous wealth of experience as a policy maker, leader and counselor at the highest levels of government," said Bruce Bodaken, president and CEO of Blue Shield. "Most importantly for Blue Shield, he shares our passion for improving health care for all Californians."
Background on Blue Shield of California
Blue Shield of California, an independent member of the Blue Shield Association, is California's second largest not-for-profit health care company. The health plan has two million members and annual revenue of $3 billion. Blue Shield Access Plus health maintenance organization is the most financially strong HMO in the nation, according to Weiss Ratings. Blue Shield preferred provider organization has the largest physician network in California. Blue Shield was founded in San Francisco in 1939 as the nation's first medical service prepayment plan.