The Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota board of directors dismissed Mike Unhjem, the companys president and chief executive officer since 1991, and named Executive Vice President of Health Operations Tim Huckle as interim president and CEO.
The company came under fire last week when word spread that more than 30 employees and their guests were taking part in a company trip to the Cayman Islands.
Company spokeswoman Denise Kolpack said at the time that the annual trip was an incentive included as part of the compensation package for the sales staff, that it was booked in 2007 and based on 2008 performance. The feeling was that the sales reps are working for it and earned it, Kolpack said last week.
Nevertheless, in light of the public outcry in the local newspapers and on the radio, she said it was decided the trips would no longer be offered and that the human resources and marketing departments were looking at alternative compensation.
Monday, the board decided to press the issue one step further with Unhjems dismissal.
This was a difficult decision to make, but on behalf of our members, providers and employees, the change was necessary in order to move forward, said Dennis Elbert, board chairman, in a news release. We recognize that we must rebuild public trust and believe this decision was a necessary first step in that process.
Huckle has been with the North Dakota Blues for 23 years. His responsibilities as executive vice president include medical management, and provider relations and reimbursement. The North Dakota Blues cover about 350,000 members, or about 53% of the states total population and about 80% of the states insured population, Kolpack said.