Healthcare foundation board will decide how to spend $40 million from BCBS-MT sale

Dec 4, 2013

Montana Healthcare Foundation Interim Trustee E. Edwin Eck

Attorney General Tim Fox’s office said Tuesday a group of candidates have been nominated for the board of a new healthcare foundation created following the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana to an out-of-state company.

BCBS-MT sold to Illinois-based Healthcare Service Corporation this summer. State law dictates money from the sale must go toward creation of a non-profit with the broad focus of improving healthcare quality in Montana. The resulting Montana Healthcare Foundation received $40 million and an interim team has spent months looking through 100 applications to nominate its board of trustees.

Interim Trustee E. Edwin Eck, appointed by Attorney General Fox, said the law requires candidates to come from geographically diverse parts of the state and to have varied backgrounds in areas like nonprofit management and investing.

“We tried to put together a team of people we felt met those statutory requirements and were well regarded in their communities as civic leaders,” Eck said.

Nominations from the selection committee are:

·         Dr. Paul R. Cook, Red Lodge. Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Education at MSU-Billings.

·         Michael V. Harrington, Missoula. Associate professor of management at the University of Montana School of Business Administration.

·         Judith LaPlan, Sidney. Administrator  of the Richland County Health Department.

·         Joanne M. Pieper, Belgrade. Retired Senior Vice President of New York Life Insurance Company.

·         Denis J. Prager, Clyde Park. Former Health Program Director at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  

·         William P. Underriner, Billings. Owner of Underriner Moters.

·         Mignon R. Waterman, Helena. Former Montana State Senator.

The nominees await confirmation from Attorney General Fox, who said he will do so if they meet the requirements of the law and complete background checks. His office said this process should take a couple of weeks. Eck’s role as Interim Trustee will finish with the formal appointment of the board.

Board members will be tasked with deciding exactly how to apply the broad directives of the law.

Nominee Mignon Waterman said the money provides great opportunity, but she acknowledged the board will still need to be deliberative in finding ways to use it.

“We could spend all of this money in a heartbeat,” Waterman said. “That in my mind, would not be the wisest and best use of the money.”

Interim Trustee Eck said once appointed, the new board will need to meet to discuss term lengths and who will serve in leadership positions.

Eck also said the foundation could receive another $100 million or more as additional Blue Cross assets are sold off. He said that amount should be clear within a year.