March 1, 2021
MARSHFIELD – Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc., is celebrating 50 years of providing high-quality, affordable health care coverage to Wisconsin communities throughout 2021.
In 1968, Congressman Melvin Laird asked Marshfield Clinic physician Dr. Russell Lewis if the Clinic would be willing to experiment with prepaid care in an effort to reduce health care costs. Over the next two years, Dr. Lewis, Dr. Ben Lawton, Fritz Wenzel and Mr. Laird worked together to develop the Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan, which later became Security Health Plan.
Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan opened for enrollment on March 1, 1971 as a joint venture between Marshfield Clinic, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Saint Joseph's Hospital. As the first health maintenance organization (HMO) in Wisconsin and the first rural HMO in the nation, this was a new concept to many, but certainly welcomed by the Marshfield community.
Former Manager of Prepaid Programs at Marshfield Clinic and Marshfield resident Don Nystrom worked on getting the health plan up and running in the early 1970s. He said that once the community heard about the health insurance coverage they could receive at an affordable price, enrollment started booming.
"We insured people that no one else insured," Nystrom said. "Farmers, people that lived in rural areas and those with pre-existing conditions could enroll at any time. There were no waiting periods to join. At that time, insurance companies didn't want to insure farmers, but the Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan did."
The plan continued to grow, gaining more enrollees throughout the community and beyond. In March 1971, Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan's total enrollment was 1,542 members. The following year, enrollment jumped to 14,787 members. Today, Security Health Plan is proud to offer insurance coverage to more than 210,000 members in all 72 Wisconsin counties. Security Health Plan offers a variety of health insurance options for employers, individuals and families in private and government plans.
Former Executive Director of Marshfield Clinic Health System Fritz Wenzel explained that the Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan was formed to help people pay for their care regardless of their economic position or health status. The founding principles ensured the community had access to affordable, high-quality health care. He explained that from the start, the founders were focused on creating a health plan with a sense of social responsibility – doing what's right for members and the community, rather than on profits.
"There was a strong sense of social conscience when the health plan was established. It was important to the doctors that people could afford their care. It's the social conscience of the health plan that sets us apart. If that stays strong, then we will be successful for a long time," Wenzel said.
As a not-for-profit health plan, Greater Marshfield Community Health Plan kept its members, and their health, as the main focus – and Security Health Plan continues that aim today.
"As part of the Marshfield Clinic Health System, our focus is – and always has been – on doing what is right for our members and our communities," said Security Health Plan Chief Executive Officer Julie Brussow. "Our mission charges us with helping our members reach their best health. That's why we offer coverage in more rural and underserved areas; we help members care for their chronic conditions; we work with providers to improve our members' health and reduce costs; and we are committed to service excellence to minimize the hassles customers have with our health insurance. And it is through the excellence and dedication of our employees, agents and providers that we are able to put our mission into action every day."
Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO Dr. Susan Turney agrees. She explains the integrated Marshfield Clinic Health System, which includes Security Health Plan, plays a vital role in keeping our Wisconsin communities healthy.
"Our integrated model allows us to bring together providers, researchers, experts in medical education and our health plan to deliver excellent patient care and experience, and to serve our communities outside our own walls," Turney said. "In particular, Security Health Plan has allowed our system to innovate and develop new models of care that have demonstrably lowered cost, and improved health outcomes and patient experience."
The company is thanking its members with a year-long celebration with a theme of being 50 and Fabulous. All are welcome to follow Security Health Plan's anniversary celebration at www.securityhealth.org/anniversary and through their Facebook page. See their celebration video on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roStiTLrFmk.