Sarah Iselin, who helped implement Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform law that became the template for the Affordable Care Act, has been appointed the new head of the state’s largest insurer.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced the move on Tuesday, saying Iselin will be the first female chief executive in the company’s history. Iselin, currently the chief operating officer of Blue Shield of California, will join the company in December and take over the CEO role in January. She will replace Andrew Dreyfus, who announced in January his intention to retire by the end of the year.

“Sarah is a gifted leader who’s smart, strategic, and passionate about improving health care,” said Dreyfus, in a release. “She knows our company, our culture and our values, and I look forward to working closely with her on an effective transition over the next few months.”

Iselin comes into the role at a turbulent time in health care. Hospitals have increasingly consolidated and, buffeted by years of COVID upheaval, are demanding higher reimbursements. Meanwhile, many in the state have complained that health care is increasingly unaffordable. She will oversee the insurer’s 2.9 million members and more than $8 billion in annual revenue, amid grumblings from some in the hospital sector over insurer earnings. Last week, Blue Cross announced it would give $13 million in rebates back to customers.

Amy Rosenthal, executive director of Health Care for All, which advocates for improved health care access, said, “At a time when Massachusetts continues to face nagging and significant health care affordability, access, and equity challenges, she is a strong leader to guide BCBS and build on the important, collaborative successes of the company and its partners.”

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