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For Univera, and Excellus, it's deja vu all over again in news releases

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has a consistent corporate message across its 39-county footprint in Upstate New York, where it does business in Western New York as Univera Healthcare and under the Blues' brand in Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and the Southern Tier.

How consistent? A news release sent out under the Univera name here --- and the Excellus name in Rochester, Syracuse and Utica --- was almost exactly the same in each community.

The release, and accompanying report, detailed the high rate of insurance coverage in Upstate New York --- one of the company's periodic, data-rich reports on topics related to health care and insurance.

Each community's release included the same sentences, word for word. The same data used in the same order. The same quotes from a company executive.

Why do we say "almost" identical? Because the company used the same quotes but attributed them to a different executive in each market.

Here's an example: “From a taxpayer’s perspective, job-based health insurance is preferable to government-based coverage, because it costs taxpayers less. We have 371,000 more upstate New Yorkers covered due to job-based benefits than we’d have if we were at the national rate for employer-based coverage.”

In Buffalo, Univera President Art Wingerter said that. In Rochester, the corporate headquarters, Excellus CEO Christopher Booth said it. In Utica, Excellus Regional President Eve Van de Wal made this observation. And in Syracuse, Dr. Arthur Vercillo, Excellus' regional president there, made the comment.

Now, they didn't all magically say the same thing to the public-relations rep who wrote the news release.

Excellus/Univera is far from the only company that puts a canned quote in a release.

So why does Excellus/Univera do that?

The Buffalo-area Univera spokesman, Peter Kates, said it's one company that does business under two names, and when it has news to announce it does so under the brand name that makes the most sense for each part of its coverage area.

As for the word-for-word quotes, Kates said, "It's a company statement attributed to the local leader to localize it," he said.

---Stephen T. Watson


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