When MESSA first began operating, it was little more than a fledgling insurance agency. As MESSA's market share expanded, so did the size of its operations. The current organization of MESSA is so expansive that it now requires a 70,000 square foot office building, a staff of approximately 200, and a specific delegation of responsibilities through three departments.
Warren Culver, a former employee of both the MEA and MEDNA, has been the executive director of MESSA since 1990. He serves as the chief administrative officer, with ultimate responsibility for administration, sales, performance, development, relations with the MEA and its other subsidiaries, and the regular daily operations of MESSA. Currently, there are three departmental directors who report directly to the executive director and hundreds of others who report indirectly to him.12 The three departments of MESSA include Marketing and Field Services, Benefits Administration, and Healthcare Resources.
The Department of Marketing and Field Services consists of approximately 30 staff members, including the MESSA field representatives who act as liaisons between MESSA and its membership. Under the leadership of Jim Hobson, this department performs certain membership services, such as answering members' questions, handling account renewals, and quoting prices for customer school districts. Field representatives, who usually have background experience as licensed insurance agents, are assigned to specific regions of the state where they intervene between MESSA and its individual members over concerns related to administration of insurance benefits. MESSA's division of field representatives is separate from the MEA's Uniserv division of professional contract negotiators, although they apparently share many of the same duties, such as counseling MEA members about MESSA's programs.
At the core of MESSA's operation is its largest single department, Benefits Administration. With a staff of around 140, the Department of Benefits Administration handles all claims from members, as arranged for in MESSA's operating agreements with its underwriters. In addition to processing claims and coordinating benefits, this department administers certain MESSA programs, such as claims evaluation and case management. This aspect of MESSA's operations is directed by Ann Purvis.
Under the directorship of Chuck McMillan, the Department of Healthcare Resources is primarily focused on MESSA's health insurance programs, which cover the vast majority of MESSA participants. The activities of this department are based upon MESSA's contract for underwriting services from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. With a staff of around 25, this department helps coordinate the options given to MESSA members for receiving medical services, in conjunction with Blue Cross.
Almost all of MESSA's clerical work is handled by the Michigan Education Data Network Association, which is, in effect, an indirect department of MESSA. Among other things, MEDNA provides MESSA with financial services, personnel services, property maintenance, and computer operations/maintenance. In fact, Dick Ringstrom, MEDNA's director of data processing, is a former director of marketing and field services at MESSA. Of greatest importance to MESSA is MEDNA's responsibility for operating the central processing unit of MESSA's complex computer network.