Richard L. Boals
President and CEO
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

What qualities does and effective CEO need to have?
You have to be able to create a vision that your team can follow. You have to be very flexible. You have to be sincere and honest and you have to care about your customers.

What qualities do you have that make you an effective leader for BCBSAZ?
I am able to envision the future. I’m adaptable to change and comfortable with change and I sincerely care about our customers and team members.

How difficult has it been to manage through the changes coming as a result of the Affordable Care Act?
The Affordable Care Act has been the biggest challenge we have ever had. The change has resulted in thousands of hours of our staff time and millions of dollars in expenditures, but we are passionate about doing the right thing. It’s the law and once it was passed, we said we would do our best to implement it.

What have you done to prepare for the ACA?
We’ve designed all new products to comply with the law. We’ve revamped our systems so they interface with the systems the government expects us to interface with. I’m happy to say we are a little ahead of schedule.

How will the ACA impact businesses and how they insure their employees?
The biggest question for businesses is whether they will continue to provide coverage to their employees. We’ve talked with many business owners who are struggling with this. Do they pay the fine, give their employees a stipend and let them go onto one of the healthcare insurance exchanges? With healthcare costs continuing to escalate, many are wondering if this is the time to step aside and let  employees take that responsibility directly.

How is being CEO of BCBSAZ different from being CEO of another company?
We’re a not-for-profit company. We pay federal income tax but we aren’t responsible to shareholders, so we’re not as inclined to worry about short-term profitability and that allows us to focus far more attention on delighting our customers.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your industry?
People are living longer, healthier lives because of new technology and innovation. How many people do we know now who have had knee replacements and would otherwise have been incapacitated or on disability? That’s not the expectation we have today. We want to live long, vibrant lives and healthcare is enabling us to do that. That said, costs have have gone up steadily since I started my career and one of our challenges is finding ways to moderate that and still deliver great value.

What advice would you give to someone entering the healthcare industry today?
If you believe in delighting your customers, if you believe in helping people when they need help the most, this is a great industry.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you like to be doing?
A career in the military would have been a great calling. I also have this vision of going to Washington and making a difference. I would like to see Washington more effective, more efficient, and maybe even improve its image a little.