Harvard Pilgrim Health Care received approval from state regulators Thursday to sell health insurance in Connecticut, furthering the company’s goal of becoming a regional health insurer.
The not-for-profit health plan, based in Wellesley, Mass., opened an office last fall at CityPlace II, 185 Asylum St. The company hopes to grow to a total of about 50 employees in its Hartford office, though employment will depend on demand for its health plans, Harvard Pilgrim CEO Eric H. Schultz said.
Harvard Pilgrim has more than 1 million members in its health plans in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. In 2011, Harvard Pilgrim developed a long-term strategy to take the Boston-centric organization and expand it to all of New England.
“It’s really around culture,” Schultz said. “How do we think of ourselves? Do we think of ourselves as a company that’s in Boston, or do we think of ourselves as a company that’s in New England.”
Schultz made a number of changes in Harvard Pilgrim’s organizational structure, giving more authority to each of the market executives sitting in each market, including Hartford.
Schultz grew up in Shelton and is a graduate of both the University of Connecticut and Yale School of Management. He worked for the former Connecticut General, which became Cigna Corp., from 1983 to 1994.
Harvard Pilgrim expects to start selling health plans in the second quarter of this year for medical coverage that begins July 1. The company has been approved, but its health plans and rates are still under review by the Connecticut Insurance Department, which regulates the industry.
“Our goal and our vision is to be the leading health services company in New England,” Schultz said.
“We’re a regional health plan that’s very community focused,” Schultz said. “And that plays out very uniquely and very dominantly in how we approach our business — everything from how we work with physicians, hospitals to how we connect with the community that we serve.”
The company won’t be ready in time to sell health plans next fall for 2015 coverage on Connecticut’s public health exchange, Access Health CT. However, Harvard Pilgrim does intend to sell plans on the exchange in 2016, Schultz said.
In January 2013, Harvard Pilgrim hired former ConnectiCare CEO Michael E. “Mickey” Herbert as a consultant to prepare its Connecticut operations. Harvard Pilgrim is ranked as the No. 1 private health plan in the U.S. by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.