Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will distribute up to $71 million to purchasers of individual, supplemental Medicare and group insurance out of the $412 million it won in a landmark 1998 lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Dakota County District Court has given preliminary approval to the agreement, and final approval is expected in six months, said Marc Manley, executive director at the Minnesota Blues' Center for Tobacco Reduction and Health Improvement. Settling its customers' claims on the tobacco money will allow the insurer to proceed with plans for the remaining funds. The insurer will spend $241 million over 10 years for smoking cessation, heart-disease prevention and cancer prevention; $30 million on community clinics; and $70 million for a state plan for hard-to-insure individuals, Manley said.
Under the settlement of the class-action suit, the Minnesota Blues will add $11 million, minus undetermined legal fees, to a $30 million pool previously earmarked for payments to purchasers of group insurance. The insurer previously agreed to divide $30 million -- for payments of $20 to $260 each -- among enrollees in its individual and supplemental Medicare plans. -- by Melanie Evans