Chicago firm completes purchase of BCBS of Montana

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana is now one of five Blue Cross divisions operating under the umbrella of Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest health insurance company.

The companies announced Health Care Service’s $40 million purchase of BCBS of Montana was completed on Thursday after receiving regulatory approval in June from state Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen and state Attorney General Tim Fox.

The Montana purchase adds 250,000 customers to the 13.2 million customers of Health Care Service in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Employees of the Montana nonprofit became employees of HCSC on Thursday, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana will retain its name, and Mike Frank will remain its president.

The companies said the merger gives the Montana insurer access to enhanced technology, cutting-edge customer service systems, important economies of scale and additional jobs in the state.

“Our focus now is on enhancing our great customer service systems and continuing to collaborate with our network of doctors, hospitals and other health-care professionals to expand access to quality, cost-effective health care in Montana,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Lindeen and Fox sought conditions for the sale that included requiring HSCS to create 100 new jobs in Montana by 2016, freeze administrative fees on policies for three years, and publicly report the salaries of its top Montana executives.

In addition, a new Montana Healthcare Foundation is being created to administer and distribute assets from the sale.

State law requires the proceeds from the sale go to a nonprofit foundation with a similar mission as Blue Cross Blue Shield, but how the foundation operates will be up to the new board of trustees.

Interim trustee Edwin Eck says the foundation is seeking applicants to fill the five new positions.

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