I want my … I want my … I want my MTV. During the 1980s, conservative politics and Reaganomics held sway as the Berlin Wall crumbled, new computer technologies emerged, and blockbuster movies and MTV reshaped pop culture. This was the decade of space shuttles, the Iran-Contra Affair, AIDS, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and neon clothing of all kinds.
It was also a time of explosive growth for WPS. Legislative changes in Wisconsin during the early 1980s created a business environment that allowed free market forces to play a greater role in health care delivery and financing. WPS was strongly positioned to take advantage of these developments.
NEW HEALTH PLANS
WPS developed alternate health delivery plans that ranged from group health incentive plans and independent practice association Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans to Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans.
WPS administered HMOs, PPOs, and other alternate health delivery plans, including Q Care, an HMO with Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wis. Q-Care served nine west-central Wisconsin counties, along with the neighboring counties in Minnesota and Iowa. The WPS AllHealth HMO plan served southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
WPS also marketed and administered Physicians Plus Preferred, the only PPO in Dane County at the time. The Physicians Plus plan featured group comprehensive major medical insurance designed to retain participants' freedom to choose physicians with a low-cost managed care alternative. Participants could choose to receive care from any health care provider, or for a lesser cost, receive care from Physicians Plus Medical Group and Meriter Hospital.
WPS continued its commitment to effective and timely corporate support of the CHAMPUS line of business. In 1981, in a highly competitive national procurement, the Office of CHAMPUS awarded WPS the first regional CHAMPUS Fiscal Intermediary contract to process claims for the CHAMPUS South-Central Region, which included Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. This contract more than doubled WPS' CHAMPUS claims volume.
In 1984, also in a highly competitive procurement environment, WPS won a second major contract for the CHAMPUS Mid Atlantic Region, which included Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
In subsequent competitive procurements, the Office of CHAMPUS selected WPS in 1984 and 1987 as the best-qualified company to administer successor contracts for the CHAMPUS South-Central Region.
Then, in 1989, the Office of CHAMPUS awarded WPS the contract for the Southeastern Region, which included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and all foreign countries.
Today, WPS functions as the prime contractor for TRICARE For Life and is a subcontractor for both the TRICARE Overseas Program and TRICARE Managed Care Support for the East Region. WPS is well respected for its work on TRICARE plans because of its vast knowledge of CHAMPUS/TRICARE operations, claims processing technology, and long-standing relationship with the Department of Defense.
With the award of the CHAMPUS South-Central Region contract in 1981, WPS moved quickly to allocate resources for an additional facility at 1617 Sherman Avenue in Madison, Wis.
In 1982, WPS constructed a new corporate headquarters—the Ray Koenig Building (pictured at right)—at its Monona location. Continued growth required placing selected facility operations in leased office space in other Madison area locations.
WPS broke ground in the spring of 1988 for a major new office building with over 153,000 square feet of floor space near our Monona location. The project, called the Engel Building (pictured below), included a three level parking ramp with an enclosed connecting tunnel. The new building was designed with a view to the future. In the event additional office space was needed, another building module of the same size and exterior shape could be joined to the building. The structure was completed and dedicated by a formal open house in September 1989. It was later renamed the Nordby Building. The building and its connected parking ramp were sold to One City Schools in 2021.
NEW COMPUTER SYSTEMS
In October 1986, WPS installed an IBM 3084QX. The IBM 3084QX provided 64 MB of memory and was rated at a capability of 32 million instructions per second (MIPS).
In November 1988, WPS installed a second mainframe computer, an Amdahl 5880, with 64 MB of memory, to provide full backup for the IBM 3084QX computer and double the CPU capacity.
WPS relocated the corporation's computer facilities to the new Ray Koenig Building and continued to update and improve computer system operations in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, sales operations again expanded in Wisconsin when WPS opened sales and service offices in Appleton in 1980 and in La Crosse in 1985.
WPS' expanded operations in all lines of business required an increase in the number of employees from approximately 700 in the late 1970s to more than 2,500 by 1989.
WPS CUTS TIES WITH BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION
While WPS was aggressively pursuing a philosophy of greater free enterprise competition in the marketing of products and services in Wisconsin and other states, the WPS Board of Directors undertook a review of the affiliation with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The WPS Board concluded there were a number of critical ways in which WPS corporate interests and objectives were no longer consistent with those of the Association. By 1985, the interests of WPS and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association had diverged considerably, and WPS terminated its affiliation with the Association.
The 1980s and early 1990s also saw the diversification of WPS lines of business. Active subsidiaries in the 1980s included:
- Administrative and Technical Services, Inc. (adtec), established in 1979, provided a variety of office services.
- InsurTec, established in 1982.
- The EPIC Life Insurance Company, which was developed in 1984 to sell and administer life and disability insurance in select states across the nation.
Additionally, WPS established the Ray Koenig Foundation of WPS, Inc. in 1986. Today, this Foundation is known as the WPS Charitable Foundation. It continues to support children of WPS employees with scholarships, as well as selected charities.
The second President of Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation was Mahlon Bontrager. Mahlon took the helm in 1986 and served until 1992. As WPS moved into the 1990s, it was in a period of growth.