Blue Shield Of California Release: Blue Shield Of California Selects Wells Fargo To Administer Health Savings Accounts

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Forging an alliance that will offer California consumers the best value in health savings accounts (HSAs), Blue Shield of California has selected Wells Fargo Institutional Trust Services, a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., one of the nation’s leading financial services companies, to administer HSAs for eligible plan members. Blue Shield members enrolled in qualified high-deductible health plans now have a trusted banking source to assist with opening and managing HSAs, which offer members potential tax advantages and savings.

The affiliation with Wells Fargo and its Health Benefit Services division enables eligible Blue Shield members to open a tax-preferred HSA and take advantage of many key benefits:

 * the ability to manage their HSA funds in interest-bearing accounts with additional investment opportunities * access to healthcare debit cards linked to their HSAs that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses * online account management capabilities * low monthly administrative fees and no set-up or transaction fees * comprehensive customer service 

HSAs were enabled by the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act in December 2003. Simply defined, HSAs are tax-advantaged personal savings or investment accounts that are owned and controlled by the health plan member. HSAs can only be opened once an individual is enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The health plan deductible must be at least $1,000 a year for an individual and $2,000 for a family and meet other plan design requirements.

Money in HSA accounts can be used tax-free for qualified medical expenses -- an office visit, hospital stay or for prescription medication and for services not typically covered by a health plan such as over-the-counter drugs, dental visits, eye exams and acupuncture. Since HSAs are portable, the member keeps the HSA even when they change jobs and unused balances carry over from year-to-year. Companies and individuals may reap tax benefits and exert more control over health care costs.

“The relationship between Blue Shield and Wells Fargo enables us to help meet the health-related financial planning needs of our members today and in the years to come,” said Lisa Rubino, senior vice president and chief executive, Individual and Government Business Unit, Blue Shield of California. “This is particularly important as consumers continue to express a high level of interest in becoming actively involved in healthcare decision making.”

“It’s exciting to be at the forefront of this new product which brings together health and wealth management in a single package,” said John Reynolds, Wells Fargo Institutional Trust Services senior vice president. “We believe that through HSAs, individuals will become more engaged in their health care and financial decisions. The HSA gives employees choices about how their health care dollars are spent and invested for the future.”

New HSA-Eligible Plans

In addition to affiliating with Wells Fargo to administer HSAs, Blue Shield is introducing four new high-deductible group health plans compatible with HSAs effective January 1, 2005. This offering is an extension of plans currently available for individuals and families and employer groups.

“Employers small and large are challenged with providing affordable health care to their employees. Blue Shield’s consumer directed health plans offer an array of benefit designs at lower prices, while helping employers and their employees manage rising healthcare expenses,” said Christopher Ciano, general manager, Commercial Business Unit.

The new suite of HSA-eligible group health plans includes (plan levels indicate the annual deductible):

* Two plans for small employer groups with 2-50 eligible employees -- Shield Spectrum PPO Savings Plan 1250 and 2600. * Two plans for mid-size/large employer groups with 51+ eligible employees -- Shield Spectrum PPO Savings Plus 1500 and 2600.

In addition, Blue Shield continues to offer the following HSA-eligible plans:

* For individuals and families -- Shield Spectrum PPO Savings Plan 2400/4800 ($2,400 annual individual deductible with a $3,200 out-of-pocket maximum and $4,800 annual family deductible with a $5,800 out-of-pocket maximum) * For midsize/large employer groups - Shield Spectrum PPO Savings Plus 2250.

All HSA-eligible plans offer first dollar coverage for certain preventive services and access to one of California’s largest preferred provider organization networks of more than 45,000 doctors and 350 hospitals.

Founded in 1939, Blue Shield of California is one of the state’s leading healthcare companies. Headquartered in San Francisco, the not-for-profit corporation has more than 2.7 million members, 4,300 employees and more than 20 office locations throughout California. For more information visit the company’s Web site at

Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $420 billion in assets, providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage and consumer finance to more than 23 million customers from more than 6,000 stores across North America and elsewhere internationally and the internet ( Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is the only “AAA"-rated bank in the United States.

For further information, please contact Patrice Smith, Director of Corporate Communications of Blue Shield of California, +1-415-229-6366,; or Liza Etienne of Wells Fargo, +1-612-316-2797,

Blue Shield of California

CONTACT: Patrice Smith, Director of Corporate Communications of BlueShield of California, +1-415-229-6366,; or LizaEtienne of Wells Fargo, +1-612-316-2797,