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Blue Shield Initiates Quality Focus in Baja California with New Cross-border HMO

Name: Laura Perry

Title: Media Relations Mgr

Phone: 310-568-2853

Email: Laura.Perry@blueshieldca.com

(San Diego, CA - June 7, 2000) In August, when Blue Shield of California opens the doors to its new cross-border health plan, Access Baja HMO, members will have use of three newly certified hospitals in Tijuana and a physician network committed to meeting Blue Shield's standards for quality of care and efficiency.

The hospitals participating in the Access Baja hospital network- Centro Medico Excel, Hospital Notre Dame and Hospital Nova - were among the first to be certified by the Mexican National Health Council for meeting the quality standards of the Mexican Commission on Hospital Certification.

"We created this plan in response to San Diego area employers who have long expressed a need for a cross-border health plan option for their employees," said Ken Wood, Executive Vice President and COO of Blue Shield. "As a consumer-focused health plan, part of our mission is to respond to evolving health care needs in California. Access Baja is uniquely positioned to open new frontiers in health care."

Access Baja allows Blue Shield members - either US or Mexican citizens - with US employer-sponsored benefits to receive their health benefit services in Tijuana, Mexico through a contracted provider network. An estimated 40-50,000 Tijuana residents cross the border legally every day to work in California.

"We are delighted about the Access Baja plan," said Dr. Carlos Astorga Othon, Secretary of Health for the State of Baja California. "Blue Shield's credibility brings a new focus on healthcare quality to Baja California."

Blue Shield's cross-border plan has been in development for three years and recently received approval by the regulatory authority, the California Department of Corporations. With Access Baja HMO, Blue Shield will serve a growing consumer interest in receiving health care in Mexico.

"The eyes of the world are on this program," said Jim Arriola, Blue Shield's District Manager for Cross Border Development. "Blue Shield is the first US-based health plan to offer cross-border health services and the first to use Mexican hospital certification as a quality standard requirement for network participation. We hope this starts a quality healthcare revolution and sets an example for others to follow."


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 healthcare company. Its health maintenance organization (HMO) and preferred provider organization (PPO) have a combined membership of 2.1 million members and annual revenue of $3 billion. Recently, Blue Shield became the first health plan to offer guided imagery to pre-surgical patients, the first California health plan to offer LifeMasters online self-care support for chronically ill members, and the first health plan to provide a comprehensive online communication link between doctors and patients.