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Sarah Iselin to become chief strategy officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Sarah Iselin will leave her post as president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation this month to become chief strategy officer for the nonprofit’s namesake insurer. She has led the foundation since early 2009.

Iselin previously was commissioner of the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, where she played a major role in implementation of the 2006 health care law that expanded health insurance coverage in Massachusetts. Before that, she developed safety and quality programs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest insurer, and worked at the foundation on the group’s Roadmap to Coverage initiative, which included a public debate and series of reports that laid the groundwork for passage of the 2006 law.

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The foundation is a private nonprofit established in 2001 with a $55 million endowment from the insurer. Both are located in the Landmark Center.

Leading the foundation is one of the best health care jobs in the state, Iselin said, but she couldn’t turn down the opportunity with the insurer, which includes oversight of the corporate citizenship group, business planning, and other responsibilities.

“It’s just a really interesting time to be grappling with all of these strategic issues in health care,” she said.

Blue Cross has been a private-sector pioneer in controlling costs, rolling out a new plan that gives groups of doctors a targeted spending level for overall patient care. Liz Kowalczyk of the Globe staff reported on a study published in July that showed doctors enrolled in the “alternative quality contract” spent less and performed better on standard of care measures.

The state health cost control bill passed this summer calls for more providers to subscribe to such plans and for 80 percent of people in Medicaid to be enrolled in one by 2015.

Iselin has worked for Blue Cross Chief Executive Andrew Dreyfus when he led the foundation and was executive vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association.

Iselin will help “promote our agenda on health care affordability,” he said. “She has such a deep understanding both of the broader health care environment and of the intersection of government regulation and market developments.”

In addition to the new payment model, Dreyfus said the company is focused on developing new health plans with a greater focus on wellness programs and has received preliminary approval to cover adults in 11 counties who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid and are among those with the most complex health needs.

Iselin has a master’s degree in health policy and management from the Harvard School of Public Health. She studied as an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She replaces Deborah Devaux, who has taken on the role of senior vice president of network and service integration. Iselin begins her new role in mid-December, and the foundation will begin a search for a new leader.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
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