U-M Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announce Marianne Udow as director for joint venture

August 1, 2007 | Press Releases

The board of directors of the joint venture between the University of Michigan Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has named Marianne Udow as the organization’s first director. Called the Center for Healthcare Quality & Transformation, the joint venture is dedicated to improving the quality of Michigan’s health care, and transforming the way patient care is delivered in the state and beyond. Udow will begin in September.

Udow will be an employee of UMHS, which is providing staffing for the Center. BCBSM is providing seed funding, allocating up to $10 million.

Udow is currently the director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, a post she has held since being appointed by Governor Granholm in January 2004. From 1992 to 2004, she served in several executive positions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, including senior vice president of health care products and provider services. She was senior vice president of plans and operations at Mercy Alternative and Care Choices from 1986 to 1988. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

“Marianne’s deep expertise in health care management and quality improvement combined with her statewide work on critical human service issues will bring stellar leadership to our joint venture,” said Kevin L. Seitz, who is the board chairman of the Center and an executive vice president at BCBSM. “In this new role, Marianne will bring critical innovations to help our state’s health care delivery and financing systems deliver best practices and develop replicable models that can contribute to the national debate on health care reform.”

“We’re very fortunate to have Marianne joining our team, because she truly understands what it will take to make health care better in Michigan and across the country, and she has the leadership skills to take this new joint venture forward at full speed,” says Robert Kelch, M.D., U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS. “Her formative training at our School of Public Health, and her years of experience at BCBSM and the state Department of Human Services, will no doubt aid her in the effort to transform health care by bringing the right people, ideas and funding together in a new way.”

The Center was created as part of the University of Michigan’s sale of its M-CARE health plan to BCBSM and its HMO subsidiary, Blue Care Network, which was finalized on Dec. 31, 2006. The sale terms included the creation of a separate joint venture aimed at improving the quality, safety, efficiency and appropriateness of health care in Michigan. UMHS and BCBSM are equal partners in the venture.

The Center has already undertaken its first project, which is evaluating the impact of lower prescription drug co-payments for U-M faculty, staff and dependents who have diabetes. The project is evaluating how reducing costs influences participants’ use of drugs to control blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and depression – all important steps that may reduce their long-term health costs by preventing or delaying kidney failure, nerve damage, cardiovascular problems and blindness.

The Center board will meet regularly to consider potential areas of health care that might be open to projects that will improve the delivery of services, get the right care to the right person at the right time, prevent medical errors, reduce risks, avoid unnecessary treatment, or get more value for the dollars spent.

In the future, the Center will allow health experts from all areas of U-M, including UMHS, and from other institutions, to pursue projects under contract with the new entity. Blue Care Network and other BCBSM subsidiaries also will be closely involved with the work of the Center. Any use of data for research will be under the jurisdiction of the appropriate research-oversight process to protect patient privacy and rights.

Results or findings of most of the projects commissioned by the Center will be available to all health experts. The Center also may endorse and promote programs and care delivery enhancements developed through projects it fosters.

The University of Michigan Health System is the academic medical center of the University of Michigan, and is considered one of the nation’s leading medical and research institutions. It comprises the U-M Medical School, its Faculty Group Practice and numerous research laboratories; three U-M-owned hospitals (University, C.S. Mott Children’s, and Women’s) with 913 licensed beds; more than 30 health centers and 120 outpatient clinics; specialized centers for cancer, cardiovascular, depression, diabetes, geriatrics, organ transplant, vision and women’s health research and care; and the Michigan Visiting Nurses and the Michigan Health Corporation. For more information, visit

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.5 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred, Community Blue and Healthy Blue Incentives PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living; Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue products in the under-age-65 individual market. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit