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Blue Cross Merger Decision Expected Soon in MT

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, March 27, 2013

Montana insurance officials expect to find out in April if a proposal from Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) to buy Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) for $17.6 million can go forward. But that may be too late for a sweeter deal for Montana under an agreement that the state's Attorney General signed off on with HCSC officials.

A hearing on the proposal was held earlier in March with former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Leaphart acting as hearing officer. He is waiting on two reports; one from each of the chief counsels for AG, Tim Fox, and Insurance Commissioner, Monica Lindeen.

Lindeen is responsible for evaluating the impact on health insurance members and the health insurance market. BCBSMT is the state's largest insurer. Fox will determine if the price offered by HCSC is fair. The two offices are somewhat at odds over a deal that Fox brokered with HCSC prior to Leaphart's hearing.

The terms Fox agreed to with HCSC include a nearly $23 million increase in the original purchase price, and a new call center in Great Falls, Mont., within a year if insurance regulators signed off on the deal by March 30.

The chief counsels preparing recommendations have until April 19 to submit their findings to Leaphart, who will then issue his own recommendation.

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