Walter McNerney is a giant of healthcare public policy.
McNerney, 76, served as president of the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association from 1961 to 1978, overseeing the 65 health plans that early on acted as the fiscal intermediaries in the Medicare program and provided coverage for half of the U.S. population. He was key adviser to President Lyndon Johnson's administration and one of the principal architects of the Medicare and Medicaid programs in the 1960s.
He almost single-handedly established the health administration program at the University of Michigan during the mid- to late 1950s, a curriculum that has evolved into a model of education, research and community service. He then raised his influence to a national level during his tenure at the Blues association, where he saved the plans hundreds of millions of dollars by pushing for the reduction of medical tests at hospitals.