5 Montana hospitals settle lawsuit alleging they swapped $26M from insurer for inflated employee premiums

Five Montana hospitals have agreed to pay $6.9 million to employees to settle allegations that they made a deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield that boosted employee health plan prices in exchange for $26 million, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

The lawsuit, filed in 2017, involved Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital; Billings Clinic; St. Peter's Health in Helena; Community Medical Center in Missoula; and Northern Montana Hospital in Havre.

The complaint alleges that the hospitals made a deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana in 2012 to exclusively buy employee health insurance plans from the insurer for six years, according to the Chronicle.

In return, the complaint says, the hospitals received about $26 million to split among them, as well as two seats on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana board of directors, the newspaper reported.

The hospitals broke federal law by not prioritizing the interests of about 11,000 of their workers covered under the deal, the lawsuit alleges. 

All the hospitals have denied wrongdoing, one stating that the money was put into a trust for the benefit of employees. Another stated it used the money to lower employees' health premiums.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana declined to comment to the Chronicle because it is not a defendant in the case.

A federal court in Great Falls, Mont., preliminarily approved the settlement last month, but a hearing on its final approval is slated for December, according to the Chronicle.


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