Posted: Mar 12, 2013 9:31 PM by Melissa Anderson - MTN News
HELENA - Public testimony was heard on Tuesday regarding the planned acquisition of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Montana to Health Care Services Corporation of Illinois.
At issue is whether the transaction will be in the public's best interest.
Attorneys for the alliance say they are offering Montana Blue Cross a chance to continue its non profit status, maintain their current employees, and even create new jobs.
"The current workforce of over 500 employees, and add an additional 100 new employees." said alliance attorney Stanley Kaleczyc.
While the name won't change, and employees will be maintained, the structure of the company will.
Under the proposed transaction Blue Cross-Blue Shield would become a division under Health Care Services Corporation of Chicago.
Jesse Laslovich, legal counsel for the Montana Insurance Commissioner, said, "There is no longer a Montana Board of Directors that controls Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Montana, rather it's an advisory board."
But under Montana law, Blue Cross will no longer be a non-profit Montana company after this acquisition, and that leaves those who represent rural communities a lot of unanswered questions.
Stephanie Larsen of the Center for Rural Affairs said, "What will be the impact, the actual impact on Montanans of this merger, especially on the most vulnerable population such as rural remote residents, low income individuals, the elderly and those with chronic diseases?"
Stipulations by the attorney general's office require HCSC to remain a not-for-profit for at least five years, and they must come through with their promise to create 100 new jobs in Great Falls by creating a new call center.
But if the sale doesn't go through, some of the current 500 jobs could actually be lost.
"As part of this decision there is the possibility that people may lose jobs if it's disapproved." explained Laslovich.
During Tuesday's testimony, the CEO of Watkins Shepard Trucking, Ray Kuntz, said that he believes that the upgraded changes in technology will be good for his 700 employees statewide.
But the assets, including the buildings, adding up to more than $120 million dollars, will not be sold, but instead placed into a foundation for future use to be determined by the state.
Overseers of the transaction say they want to make sure Montanans and Blue Cross-Blue Shield clients don't come out on the short end.