James R. Reed

James R. Reed

James R. Reedreed-jim

President and Chief Executive Officer, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Years in current role: Appointed Chief Executive Officer in May 2021, had been serving as President and CEO-elect since July 2020.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I truly enjoy interacting with colleagues, customers and co-workers on a daily basis. My background is in sales, so I’ve always been a people person and our organization has spent the past decade focusing on our corporate culture, including having fun even at work.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?

The past year was like no other, as we faced a pandemic and our communities dealt with race and social justice issues. I’m proud of how our health plan and our employees responded, delivering on our mission of providing access to affordable health care and caring for our communities. We committed more than $220 million in unbudgeted spending to address food insecurity, increase access to health care, expand telehealth services, support our physician and hospital partners and community-based organizations in response to the pandemic. At the same time, we are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in particular health equity. We provided more than $1.4 million in community health initiatives and engagement, focusing on health disparities, social determinants of health, and community engagement. We funded an important study that recognized structural racism as a barrier to health equity. Through all of this, I learned just how resilient our business, employees, and communities are.

What do you see as the biggest changes in the health care industry in the next 3-5 years?

Two of the major trends facing health care and the financing of health care are affordability and increased use of services. As medicine can do more, it is expected to do more. We all expect the best care and the result is improved quality of life for people. But the new drugs, the new procedures, the new technology all comes with a price. The second major trend is the aging population. As we age, we require more health care services and more intense services. Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 people per day nationwide which is why there is going to be such an emphasis on Medicare and Medicare Advantage products in the years to come.

What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?

As a good corporate citizen, our health plan supports dozens of nonprofit organizations in the Rochester area through a variety of programs. We view it as part of our mission to help people in our communities live healthier and more secure lives. We also encourage our 3,700 employees to volunteer with their favorite causes by annually giving every employee eight hours of volunteer time off.  Last year, even with Covid restrictions in place, our employees logged more than 5,000 hours volunteering with community organizations. I’m honored to serve on multiple committees and boards in our Rochester-area community, including ROC2025 and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?

We all say we want to return to normal, but normal is going to look different going forward. I’m excited to see what that looks like. COVID-19 changed everyone and while we’ll get back to some things, like seeing family and traveling, some of what we learned during COVID-19 will be with us for quite a while.