Fox appoints former law school dean as interim head of new health-care foundation

2013-06-28T17:07:00Z 2013-06-29T00:09:23Z Fox appoints former law school dean as interim head of new health-care foundationBy MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — Attorney General Tim Fox said Friday that he has appointed a former University of Montana law school dean to help choose the board overseeing a new, multimillion-dollar health care foundation financed by the sale of Montana’s largest private health insurer.

Yet neither Fox nor retired law professor Edwin Eck, the foundation’s new interim trustee, could say yet just what the foundation will do with its $100-million-plus in eventual proceeds.

They said the details will be left to the foundation’s board, which will be chosen in the coming months by a search committee headed up by Eck.

“I don’t know that any of us will know the specifics of (the foundation plans), until the board is convened and they begin their work,” Fox said at a news conference at his Helena office.

The foundation, created by Fox’s office Tuesday and named Montana Healthcare Foundation, will be funded by proceeds of the pending sale of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.

Under state law, proceeds from the sale or “conversion” of a nonprofit insurer like Blue Cross in Montana must go to a new, nonprofit foundation that has a mission “that is as close as possible to the mission of” the entity being sold.

Fox said that mission is to provide financial support “to improve the quality, availability and awareness of health care programs and services for Montanans.”

Fox and state Auditor Monica Lindeen this week approved the sale of Blue Cross to Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., the fourth-largest private health insurer in the nation.

HCSC has agreed to pay $40.2 million to acquire Blue Cross — money that will go to the new foundation. The foundation also will receive income from Blue Cross assets, such as the sale of property and reserves left over after it pays any remaining non-insurance liabilities.

Justice Department officials said Friday that additional proceeds could be anywhere from $100 million to $150 million.

The attorney general has oversight of the creation of the foundation.

Eck said a three-person search committee will solicit and screen applications for the foundation’s board members. The committee will include himself, businesswoman Karen Fagg of Billings and financial planner James Soft of Billings, a former president of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch.

The panel will nominate board members, who will be reviewed by Fox’s office to see if they fulfill the legal requirements for foundation directors.

Fox said the board members must be independent from his office or anyone connected with Blue Cross or HCSC, and can’t use the money to supplant any government funds.

He also said the money cannot be used to pay refunds or rebates to businesses or individuals who have been insurance customers of Blue Cross — as some have suggested.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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