How would you spend $469 million?
Although most of us don't have to grapple with that question, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota does.
In May the Blues was awarded that sum when it settled a 1994 lawsuit against tobacco companies.
The lawsuit, which had been filed by the Blues and Minnesota's attorney general, sought to recoup the healthcare costs of smoking-related illnesses. In its part of the settlement, the state of Minnesota was awarded $6.1 billion.
Now, the Blues has detailed a plan for how to spend its windfall.
After paying $124 million in state and federal income taxes, the Blues wants to spread the rest of the money around in trying to reduce tobacco use and helping people to quit smoking.
"What the money allows us to do is have a huge impact and be able to do it quicker," said Blues spokesman Karl Oestreich.
The Blues filed its proposed spending plan last month with the Minnesota Commerce Department, which regulates HMOs in Minnesota.
An administrative hearing to review and collect public comment on the plan is expected to take place next month, said Dave Gruenes, the state's commerce commissioner.
Gruenes said he will decide by the end of the year whether to approve the plan. He could not comment on the plan.
After taxes, the Blues proposes to spend its money thus:
$110 million on smoking cessation drugs and other products for enrollees at no additional premium cost.
$179 million to support research and development of ways to improve people's health, including reducing tobacco use.
$21 million to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation to provide grants for community efforts to cut tobacco use.
The Blues, which will receive settlement payments over five years, has based its spending projections on what it says is the settlement's current value: $434 million.
At least 44 other Blues plans have filed lawsuits against tobacco companies, said a spokesman for the Chicago-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
The lawsuits are filed in district courts in Chicago, New York and Seattle (May 4, p. 12).