Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a federation of 36 separate United States health insurance companies that provide health insurance in the United States to more than 106 million people. It was formed in 1982 from the merger of its two namesake organizations: Blue Cross was founded in 1929 and became the Blue Cross Association in 1960, while Blue Shield emerged in 1939 and the Blue Shield Association was created in 1948.
In the healthcare insurance industry, the organization is known as "The Association" and has two offices: in Chicago and Washington, D.C. The main office is in Chicago in the Illinois Center at 225 North Michigan Avenue. The BCBSA claims to control access to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield trademarks and names across the United States and in more than 170 other countries, which it then licenses to the affiliated companies for specific, exclusive geographic service areas. It has affiliated plans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, as well as licensees offering plans in several foreign countries; it also operates a nationwide health insurance program for employees of the United States federal government. The BCBSA manages communications between its members and the operating policies required to be a licensee of the trademarks. This permits each BCBSA company to offer nationwide insurance coverage even though it operates only in its designated service area.