conrad-bcbs.thumbnail.jpgFrom the Fargo, North Dakota Forum via Kossack Dbug:

Nearly $15 million in employee bonuses that were almost assured regardless of performance.

Sales reward trips to posh resorts totaling $1.2 million.

A $3.5 million investment in a murky hotel partnership lacking audited financial statements.

All this and much more during just the past five years are among almost half a billion dollars in expenses detailed in a report by state insurance examiners who probed spending practices by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

The Forum obtained the 101-page report late last week and studied it in detail over the long holiday weekend.

Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm ordered the “target examination” last March after news reports of a $238,511 reward trip to a Grand Caymans resort for Blue Cross Blue Shield sales leaders sparked public outrage in a time of belt-tightening by most.

The results of the examination, which reviewed expenses from Jan. 1, 2004, to March 31, 2009, for the state’s dominant health insurer, come as the nation is embroiled in a debate over health reform and health insurance rates run amok.

The report’s bottom line: The lavish expenses for the controversial trip to the sandy Caribbean beaches were symptomatic of a broader culture of extravagant spending by the company that collects almost 90 cents of every $1 in private insurance premiums paid in North Dakota.

Altogether, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota premium payers picked up the tab for $418.3 million in administrative expenses over the five-year period.

And yes, Blue Cross — which has 90% of the North Dakota market — would be one of the members of the "insurance co-ops" into which Conrad’s bill would funnel mandated customers.   (Our own Slinkerwink discussed this in detail last month.) 

In other words, Blue Cross would go from being a near-monopoly in the state to a near-monopoly that would have the power of law to force you to buy its overpriced crappy insurance.  And they’d still be handing out millions in unearned bonuses while they told you that you can forget about any meaningful help paying for your cancer treatments.

Anyone wanna bet the TradMed ignores this little scandal on the prairie?  I mean, they’re too busy taking Eric Cantor seriously and all.