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HealthNow New York President and CEO Alphonso O’Neil-White has been elected chairman of the national board of the BlueCross BlueShield Association for a one-year term.

O’Neil-White, who has been CEO of Buffalo-based HealthNow since 2003, this month took the board helm of the Chicago-based trade group of 38 independent, locally operated companies that are all licensees of the BlueCross BlueShield brand. He will preside over quarterly meetings of the board, which sets policies for all BlueCross BlueShield companies and oversees and guides the trade group, and will also chair the board’s Administrative Committee.

HealthNow is the parent of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York in Buffalo and Blue Shield of Northeastern New York in Albany, serving over 800,000 members.

“Alphonso will bring strong and strategic leadership to the nation’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies,” said Scott P. Serota, president and chief executive officer of BCBSA.

Although the group’s member companies represent only part of the nation’s health insurance industry, about one in three Americans is insured by BlueCross BlueShield – a total of nearly 100 million Americans.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected by my peers to lead this great organization, which plays such a significant role in our company and our health care system,” O’Neil-White said in a news release.

O’Neil-White joined HealthNow in 1996 as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary before being named interim CEO in December 2003 and permanent head in July 2004. Before his recruitment to HealthNow by former CEO Thomas Hartnett, O’Neil-White was vice president and general counsel for the national industry trade group now known as America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Previously, he served as labor counsel for Humana, a publicly traded national insurer specializing in Medicare, and general counsel for Group Health Association, one of the nation’s first HMOs. He began his career as an attorney in private practice, specializing in labor and management relations.

Besides HealthNow, he also serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the National Institute for Health Care Management, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com