State Insurance Department fines Blue Cross Blue Shield $60,000 for violations, deficiencies

North Dakota's Insurance Department has levied $60,000 in fines against the state's largest health insurer for what Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm calls "egregious" violations of state law.

A months-long state examination prompted by consumer questions and complaints uncovered several violations and "deficiencies" in the way Noridian Mutual Insurance Co. did business between March 2010 and May 2013, Hamm said Thursday. Noridian operates as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

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"The exam of this company found multiple violations of North Dakota law on a wide range of issues, from claims handling to the underwriting process to misrepresentations to consumers, so these are egregious violations," he said. "It impacted thousands of policyholders."

Examples of violations included improperly removing some dependents from parents' group health plans, denying coverage of some independents on individual health plans and misleading some policyholders about premium discounts on life and disability policies. The company also knowingly gave incomplete information to the Insurance Department during the probe, the agency said.

Company spokeswoman Andrea Dinneen did not immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

Noridian President and CEO Tim Huckle signed a consent order issued by the Insurance Department, waiving the company's right to a hearing before an administrative law judge and a possible appeal to state district court.

Blue Cross Blue Shield provides more than half a million North Dakota residents with health care coverage. The company's last state fine, $30,000, came in September 2009 for understating its administrative costs and failing to provide the Insurance Department with a required document.

Hamm said his department plans to step up its oversight of Noridian in the wake of the recent violations.

"Blue Cross Blue Shield has admitted all of them, has pledged to take steps to fix them, and my team here at the Insurance Department is going to be closely monitoring," he said.


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