CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Jeffrey L. Houpt, MD, former dean of the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine and founding CEO of the UNC Health Care System, has been elected chairman of the Board of Trustees of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC).
Houpt replaces Rhone Sasser, a Whiteville banking executive, who is retiring from the board after 22 years of service, including 10 years as its chairman.
“I look forward to working with Dr. Jeff Houpt as he provides leadership to our board and our company,” said BCBSNC President and CEO Bob Greczyn. “He’s devoted to North Carolina, and he knows what it takes to run a large, complex and successful health care business.  He’s been at the forefront of training a new generation of physicians, and he brings a particular knowledge of the medical care community and the health needs of our residents.”
Houpt was elected to the BCBSNC board in 2004. He came to the UNC in 1997 as medical school dean and vice chancellor for medical affairs. He became CEO of the UNC Health Care System in 1998. He currently serves as a professor of psychiatry at UNC.
“The board’s obligation is to govern an important company that meets the health care coverage needs of one-third of North Carolina’s residents,” Houpt said. “We will continue our focus on promoting the health of our members, maintaining the financial stability of Blue Cross and working collaboratively to improve health care quality and accessibility. I am honored to serve as chairman of this accomplished and diverse group of dedicated North Carolinians.”
Before coming to Carolina, Houpt was dean of Emory University School of Medicine, where he also served as a professor and chair of the department of psychiatry.
Along with electing Houpt as its chair, the board named Sasser as chairman emeritus in honor of his service. Sasser, former chairman and CEO of United Carolina Bank and United Carolina Bancshares Corp., joined the board in 1985 and became chairman in 1997.
“Rhone Sasser is a strong mentor and a great leader,” Greczyn said. “His knowledge of North Carolina, his business acumen and his executive leadership experience have been crucial as we have lived our mission for our members. We will miss him on the board, but we will continue to benefit from the steady and capable hand he has provided as our chair.”
During Sasser’s tenure as chairman, the board put a new executive leadership team in place. The company returned to financial stability and experienced robust membership growth, doubling the number of people served to the current 3.4 million. BCBSNC also gained national prominence for its preventive health efforts, including becoming the first health insurer in the nation to cover obesity as a primary condition.
The company also invested in new products and customer service technology, established a major operations center in Winston-Salem, provided incentives for customers to make cost-effective prescription drug choices and launched collaborations with health care providers to promote quality and safety.
“As I retire from the board, I take great pride in our success in building Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina into one of the most vigorous health insurance companies in the nation,” Sasser said. “I have taken with great seriousness the trust North Carolinians place in us for their health care coverage. I am leaving the company and the board in the hands of strong, capable leadership.”
Members of the BCBSNC Board of Trustees come from a variety of backgrounds from all across North Carolina. They have excelled in fields that include education, banking, finance, medicine, utilities and development.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.4 million members, including approximately 749,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 73 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at