Centers of Excellence

​Centers of Excellence are designated facilities proven to deliver superior results for complicated, costly surgical procedures.

​The designation is based on evidence-based, objective criteria established with input from expert physicians and medical organizations. The Center of Excellence designation helps individuals identify facilities that offer quality specialty care for bariatric surgery, cancer, cardiac care, knee and hip replacements, maternity, spinal surgery, and transplants.

Overall, patients treated at Centers of Excellence have 

  • better outcomes; 
  • fewer complications; 
  • fewer readmissions; and 
  • lower total cost of care.

Centers of Excellence specialty care benefits

Centers of Excellence specialty benefits for select surgical procedures are available to employees and their eligible family members enrolled in the active Medical Plan (PPO, EPO, or HDHP).* When select procedures in the following four areas are performed at a Center of Excellence, the plan will pay 100 percent of allowable charges after the annual plan deductible is met: 

  • bariatric surgery
  • transplants
  • knee and hip replacements
  • spinal surgery.

In addition, if you must travel more than 100 miles to a Center of Excellence you are eligible for a travel benefit of up to $10,000 to cover expenses for yourself and a companion.

Bariatric surgery

  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass
  • vertical banded gastroplasty
  • biliopancreatic bypass
  • biliopancreatic bypass with duodenal switch
  • adjustable gastric banding
  • gastric sleeve resection
  • revision of gastric restrictive procedures

Knee and hip replacements

  • total knee replacements
  • total hip replacements


  • heart
  • lung (deceased and living donor)
  • combination heart/lung
  • liver (deceased and living donor)
  • simultaneous pancreas kidney (SPK)
  • pancreas (PAK/PTA)
  • bone marrow/stem cell (autologous and allogenic)

Spinal surgery

  • discectomy
  • fusion
  • decompression procedures

Find a Center of Excellence

To find Centers of Excellence, call the Member Service number on the back of your medical ID card or use the provider search tool on your service provider's website.

If you access healthcare providers through the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Network, Blue Distinction is the Centers of Excellence designation used by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. You can find Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction+ Centers by using the Provider Search tool on the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield website, where designated hospitals are clearly identified with the Blue Distinction Center and Blue Distinction Center+ logo.

If you access healthcare providers through the Aetna network, Centers of Excellence are designated as Aetna Institutes of Quality (bariatric surgery, knee and hip replacements, and spinal surgery) and Aetna Institutes of Excellence (transplants). To find facilities with these designations, use the provider search tool on the Aetna website.

*Centers of Excellence specialty benefits are available to employees and their family members enrolled in the active Medical Plan (PPO, EPO, or HDHP) for 2019; these benefits are not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.