HELENA (AP) — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana said it fired its chief marketing officer last winter because the company missed a deadline to bid on a nearly $4 million annual contract to manage part of the state's health insurance plan.
The claim was part of the company's response to Shannon Marsden's wrongful discharge lawsuit, which claims she was fired for reporting illegal actions that could have led to higher insurance premiums, the Independent Record reported (http://bit.ly/IennLh ) Tuesday.
Blue Cross filed its response to the lawsuit last week, saying it was Marsden's ultimate responsibility to make sure the bid for the three-year contract was submitted in time. The company also claims Marsden violated her employment agreement and company policy by breaching or threatening to share company trade secrets and confidential information.
Blue Cross also countersued, seeking the return of about $328,000 in severance pay it says Marsden received upon her Dec. 30 termination.
Marsden's attorney, Lin Deola, declined to comment Monday.
The state self-insures about 32,000 state employees and retirees and their dependents, contracting with outside companies to manage claims and arrange provider networks. Blue Cross had held at least part of the contract for nearly three decades.
The state awarded a new three-year contract to Cigna, beginning in January 2013.
Marsden's lawsuit, filed this month in District Court in Helena, alleged that on Aug. 1, she told Blue Cross Chief Legal Counsel Mary Belcher and CEO Michael Frank about illegal rebates to customers of sales commissions, and that led to her firing.
"The individual(s) involved in the rebating reported by Marsden included employee(s) and personal friend(s) of Frank," Marsden's lawsuit alleged.
Such rebates could create higher insurance premiums and make it difficult for regulators to determine whether an insurance provider is capable of covering possible liabilities. The rebates are illegal in Montana, the IR reported earlier this month.