Health Care Service Corporation's comms head Matt Burns exits

The health insurer has changed up its entire leadership team and laid off hundreds of employees.

Matt Burns
Matt Burns

CHICAGO: Health Care Service Corporation’s VP and chief communications officer Matt Burns has exited the health insurer, which is the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Burns, who served in the role for about a year, confirmed he left the company in a statement to PRWeek.

"Sometimes the fit and philosophy aren’t a match," he said. "I am proud of the work we did to set the communications and marketing functions on a path to success, and I look forward to seeing what the new leadership does to compete in a very dynamic and pressured industry."

Burns added that he’s a "free agent for the first time in 20 years and being deliberate about what’s next."

Speaking about his next job, he said he was in discussions with a few companies and agencies.

"First things first, I took my son ice fishing for a week in northern New York," he said.

A Health Care Service Corporation representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Before coming to Health Care Service Corporation, Burns was at UnitedHealth Group, serving as VP of comms and VP of external comms. He was also MD and U.S. Southwest market leader at Burson-Marsteller.

Burns had several stints in politics, serving as comms director for the 2008 Republican National Convention, press secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs and spokesman for former New York Gov. George Pataki.

Health Care Service Corporation said last week it’s laying off 400 workers following the departure of CEO Paula Steiner and cutting a few dozen middle-management positions, according to Modern Healthcare. Steiner’s exit was quickly followed by CFO Eric Feldstein.

However, Health Care Service plans on adding 1,000 new jobs in customer and provider service, technology and digital capabilities. Board member David Lesar is serving as the interim CEO, while Maurice Smith is serving as president.

The shakeup in leadership was promoted by Steiner’s disagreements with the board of directors over the company’s long-term growth plans, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. The board was reportedly frustrated with Steiner’s "relatively cautious expansion strategy amid rapid industry consolidation," the outlet reported.

Joel Farran, SVP and chief brand officer, served as Burns’ direct supervisor and exited the company in April 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Scott Serota, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, announced he’d retire at the end of 2020. He joined the association in 1996 and became president and CEO in 2000.

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