Bupa & Blue Cross to create world’s largest provider network

Bupa Blue cross partnership

Bupa and Blue Cross in “the biggest partnership the health insurance market has ever seen.”

Bupa and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) have created a strategic partnership which will result in the largest healthcare provider network in the world for international health insurance customers.

UK-based Bupa, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) system – America’s largest health insurance provider – are working together to expand GeoBlue, the global health insurance product offered in the US.

Launching later this year, the network will combine the BCBS network in the US with Bupa and GeoBlue’s global network, totalling 11,500 hospitals and approximately 750,000 healthcare professionals in more than 190 countries. BCBS and Bupa will also develop new insurance products to be available through GeoBlue in 2015.

As part of the partnership, Bupa will purchase a 49 percent stake in Highway to Health, Inc. which administers and sells the GeoBlue international health products. BCBSA and BCBS companies will continue to own the remaining 51 percent.

The growing mobile expat demographic demands policies more robust than simple travel insurance, something the new partnership hopes to provide.

“We know that people are becoming increasingly globally mobile – either to live, study or simply travel abroad for long periods of time – and travel insurance doesn’t always provide the coverage they need or expect, said Robert Lang, managing director of the Bupa Global Market Unit in a statement.

“We’re responding by creating the biggest global provider network for people who require international health coverage, and other propositions will follow later this year.”

This partnership is expected to help Blue Cross insurers better compete with Cigna Corp. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. who have been growing their business outside of the US.

“We are going to be able to provide expatriates with the best solution to access health care around the world, and this will also benefit large employers who have employees who travel abroad for long periods,” said Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Blue Cross Association, in an interview with Bloomberg.