BCBSM and U-M Health System launch Michigan HealthQuarters, a new organization devoted to improving Michigan’s health care

February 19, 2007 | Press Releases

A new Michigan organization is dedicated to improving the quality of the state’s health care system, and transforming the way patient care is delivered in the state and beyond. Called Michigan HealthQuarters LLC, it is a joint venture of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the University of Michigan Health System.

In recent weeks, the organization held the first meeting of its board of managers, launched a national search for its first executive director, and chose the first project that it will undertake: evaluating if lower prescription drug co-payments for people with diabetes can improve the processes and outcomes of diabetes care.

The rapid series of events follows 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. BCBSM has committed up to $10 million to fund Michigan HealthQuarters, and UMHS and BCBSM are equal partners in the venture.

MHQ’s board, which includes four members from each of the founding organizations, is chaired by Kevin L. Seitz, executive vice president of Health Care Value Enhancement for BCBSM. Its vice chair is John E. Billi, M.D., associate vice president for medical affairs at U-M and associate dean for clinical affairs at the U-M Medical School.

“This is good news for Michigan as we launch an exciting venture that seeks to enhance the delivery and efficiency of health care services to our state’s residents,” says Seitz.

Billi notes that the joint venture builds on years of cooperation between UMHS and BCBSM. “For nearly a decade, we have partnered in the BCBSM Cardiovascular Consortium, an award-winning project that has saved lives and costs by reducing angioplasty complications at Michigan hospitals and is now working to speed patients’ access to emergency angioplasty,” he says. “Projects like that are what this joint venture is all about.”

The first project to be led by MHQ is actually one that began at U-M in July of 2006, when the University began reducing or eliminating co-pays for employees and their dependents who have diabetes. More than 2,000 people are now participating. This project, called MHealthy: Focus on Diabetes, now will be based in MHQ and administered by its staff, although participants will not notice any change.

The MHQ team will collect and analyze data together with a team from U-M to see if a reduction in out-of-pocket costs succeeds in increasing participants’ use of medications and tests that can slow or prevent diabetes complications such as heart disease, blindness and kidney failure.

The project is the first of many that MHQ will pursue, Seitz and Billi note. The 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.

Projects might focus on ways to help people with certain conditions manage their disease, recommending improvements related to specific types of surgery, and implementation of demonstration projects that will measure the impact of specific changes in health care delivery or health benefits design, such as disease management programs, to see if such a change should be rolled out to broader groups of patients. Other projects might be designed to evaluate existing health and benefit programs and to look for opportunities to improve them.

As time goes on, MHQ will issue requests for proposals and make pilot funding available for the most innovative and valuable proposed projects.

The venture will allow health experts from all areas of U-M, including the Health System, 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 joint venture. 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 joint venture will be available to all health experts. MHQ also may endorse and promote programs and care delivery enhancements developed through projects it fosters.

The position of chair will rotate annually between candidates chosen by the four BCBSM board members and those chosen by the four UMHS members.

The following individuals are on the Michigan HealthQuarters board:

  • Kevin L. Seitz, executive vice president, Health Care Value Enhancement, BCBSM (chair)
  • John E. Billi, M.D., associate vice president for medical affairs at U-M and associate dean for clinical affairs at the U-M Medical School (vice chair)
  • Rodney Hayward, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and director of the Veteran’s Affairs Center for Practice Management and Outcomes Research, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
  • William H. Herman, M.D., M.P.H., Stefan S. Fajans/GlaxoSmithKline professor of diabetes at the U-M Medical School, and director, Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
  • Robert Milewski, senior vice president, Contracting and Hospital Relations, BCBSM
  • Mauro Moscucci, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, U-M Medical School, principal investigator, BCBSM Cardiovascular Consortium
  • Thomas L. Simmer, M.D., senior vice president for Health Care Value and Provider Affiliation and Chief Medical Officer, BCBSM
  • Douglas R. Woll, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Blue Care Network

Biographies of the board members are available by request.

The executive director job posting for Michigan HealthQuarters is number 6722 on the U-M jobs web site,

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 865 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; the Michigan Visiting Nurses and the Michigan Health Corporation. For more information, visit

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit corporation, provides or administers health care benefits to just over 4.7 million members through a variety of plans: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred, Community Blue and Healthy Blue PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO, and Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts. 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 information, visit