Former UnitedHealth Exec. Named Blue Cross CEO

Kenneth Burdick will take the helm in mid-February; he most recently served as senior vice president of Coventry Health Care and CEO of its Medicaid and behavioral health businesses; but Burdick reportedly spent 14 years at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Minnesota has chosen its next leader.

The Eagan-based organization said Monday that Kenneth Burdick-a former UnitedHealth Group executive-has been named president and CEO, a transition that will take effect in mid-February.

Burdick most recently served as senior vice president of Bethesda, Maryland-based Coventry Health Care, Inc., which operates health plans, along with insurance and other companies; he also was CEO of Coventry's Medicaid and behavioral health businesses. Coventry serves more than 5 million members in all 50 states.

Burdick succeeds Patrick J. Geraghty, who left his post in early August to become CEO of BCBS of Florida. Since his departure, Pamela Wheelock-then-chair of the BCBS of Minnesota board of trustees-has served as interim president and CEO.

“I am looking forward to the challenge of leading Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The organization has a strong tradition of excellence, but there is also a great opportunity to create new approaches and products for the changing market,” Burdick said in a statement. “Minnesota is a great state, and I'm looking forward to working in this community and leading Blue Cross at a time of significant change in health care.”

With more than $9 billion in annual revenue, BCBS is the largest insurer that sells health plans within the state; it is also Minnesota's largest nonprofit organization, and its enrollment exceeds 2.6 million.

Burdick told the Star Tribune that he's “excited about health care reform, rather than somebody who's fearful of it” and that he plans to use opportunities created by health care reform to help BCBS of Minnesota evolve into a “health company.”

Prior to joining Coventry, Burdick worked for Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group. Past posts include CEO of Secure Horizons, UnitedHealth Group's Medicare company, and president and chief executive of UnitedHealthcare's commercial business. According to the Star Tribune, Burdick was at UnitedHealth Group from 1995 to 2009 and has been living with his family in Minneapolis for the past year and commuting to Maryland.

Burdick has held senior leadership positions in underwriting, operations, sales and client relationships, and marketing-and other companies he's worked for include Travelers Companies and CIGNA Corporation.

BCBS Chair Vance Opperman said in a statement that Burdick's “unique combination of expertise, understanding of complex health care issues, and experience at several large national health care companies make him the right leader for Blue Cross.