It’s a Thursday afternoon and Ted Haynes, president of BlueCross and BlueShield of Oklahoma, has driven from Tulsa for the day, to confer with colleagues in Oklahoma City and to check out the new Oklahoma Caring Foundation van parked outside their offices on Northwest Expressway and attend a community event that evening.
Lying atop Haynes’ conference table is a leather-bound book with the word “JOURNAL” on its cover.
After it’s pointed out, Haynes shares that he, for the past 15 years, has written in it daily, following his morning Bible readings.
“I’ve found that writing — along with reading, watching and listening — helps me learn, set and monitor goals, and work through life’s problems,” Haynes said. “When you’re writing, your mind can’t wander,” he said.
Among the many things Haynes has puzzled out through journaling is a second career after he retires.
Deciding upon mediation, he went back to school to earn a master’s in dispute resolution and conflict management.
“The degree is already relevant,” Haynes said, “and comes into play in business all the time.”
Meanwhile, Haynes, 60, said he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon. Here is an edited transcript of his recent conversation with The Oklahoman:
Q: Tell us about your childhood.
A: I grew up in Roscoe, Texas. If you’re heading to Lubbock from Abilene, Roscoe is where you turn left. Its population was 1,300 and my graduating class totaled only 32. But I loved it.
My father farmed 1,500 acres of cotton, and managed a cotton gin. I was the second of four — three boys and a girl — and started driving a tractor when I was 9. My dad paid me 45 cents an hour, and I spent it all on motorcycles. I bought a used Honda for $270 when I turned 14. Today, I ride Harleys.
Q: And college?
A: I wanted to get away from tractors, so I chose to study 400 miles away at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. My parents covered my tuition, but for spending money, I worked as a delivery boy in a flower shop.
After taking basic courses my first year, I elected accounting because it was the only major that didn’t require a foreign language. It took me five years to graduate, but when I did, I had a job with Arthur Andersen & Co. Through the college’s accounting club, I met a mentor who was working there. He pushed me to sit for the accounting exam before I graduated. So, when it came time to interview for jobs, I’d already passed two of the four parts, which gave me an edge on my classmates.
Following graduation, I worked nine years as a field auditor for Arthur Andersen in Houston, including for oil and gas, real estate and construction companies.
Q: How did you move from accounting into health care?
A: I was having dinner at a steakhouse one night and ran into a former Arthur Andersen partner who was reorganizing a subsidiary of Houston-based Memorial Hermann for which he then worked. He called me the next morning and asked me to chair the subsidiary, whose roughly 100 employees administered self-funded managed care plans for some 30 clients and 25,000 members. I knew health care wasn’t an industry that was going away, and was intrigued by the contract negotiations with physicians and hospitals.
After seven years in that position, I negotiated from the other side of the table for the hospital, as director of managed care, and worked a year as senior manager/director of managed care at KPMG Peat Marwick. It was over those 11 years that I became impressed with BlueCross BlueShield, largely because they’re owned by their members, so they’re focused on what they think versus what Wall Street thinks.
Q: What are the highlights of your career with BlueCross BlueShield?
A: In August 1996, we relocated to Charleston, W.V., where I worked three years as president and CEO of West Virginia Accountable Health Plan, an HMO owned by BlueCross Indiana and for which I’d served as chairman of the board. Then a job opened up back in Texas with BlueCross and BlueShield, as vice president and chief operating officer of the corporation’s Southeast Texas region, and as chief executive officer of HMO Blue®, Southwest Texas.
From 2003 to 2012, I managed the provider network for the entire state of Texas, with overall responsibility for health care delivery, including health care provider networks, provider services, pharmacy programs and Medicaid operations. I started my current job, as president of BCBS of Oklahoma, in July 2012.
The organization — which employs 1,100 statewide and insures 830,000 Oklahomans — is part of a five-state corporation based in Chicago. Along with Oklahoma and Illinois, it includes Texas, New Mexico and Montana.
Q: What did you think about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act?
A: Its intent was to get health insurance for roughly 600,000 uninsured Oklahomans and, despite the website issues, about 69,000 enrolled on the exchange during the first open enrollment. The challenge is that many of those new enrollees have never had insurance, so there’s a great need to explain benefits and how to, and not to, use them.
Like any new business rollout, it’s going to take a while for things to settle down. Meanwhile, I’m happy BlueCross and BlueShield of Oklahoma has a seat at the table, with the state Department of Public Health and others, when we’re discussing ways to improve public health.
Through the Oklahoma Caring Foundation, for which I’m privileged to serve as chairman of the board, we’re working with the health department to provide free immunizations to children statewide who are uninsured, on Medicaid or American Indian. We’ve immunized roughly 100,000 children so far.