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Blue Cross Blue Shield names new CEO

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota tapped a veteran health insurance executive to lead the firm as it seeks to distance itself from the furor over an incentive sales trip last March at a Caribbean resort.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota tapped a veteran health insurance executive to lead the firm as it seeks to distance itself from the furor over an incentive sales trip last March at a Caribbean resort.

Paul von Ebers, 56, will take the reins of the North Dakota Blues no later than Sept. 1, after he winds down his consulting practice.

Von Ebers, who spent 20 years with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Iowa and South Dakota during a career in health insurance management, emerged as the board's unanimous choice among four finalists selected in a nationwide search.

'Thrilled'

Dennis Ebert, chairman of the Blue Cross Blue Shield board, said he was "thrilled" to introduce von Ebers as the choice of a selection process that put integrity at the forefront.

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"Paul is a humble man," Ebert said, noting von Ebers has more than 38 years of experience, with an extensive background in working with Blue Cross Blue Shield firms in the Upper Midwest and in New York state.

"He has deep roots in the Midwest," Ebert said, noting von Ebers' experience also includes work with Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Illinois and Michigan.

Von Ebers succeeds Mike Unhjem, the longtime Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota CEO who was dismissed in March amid public furor over a sales reward trip to a luxury resort in the Grand Cayman Islands.

Von Ebers, who described his management style as collaborative, said his top priorities will be containing costs and assuring quality of health care.

"There is a real opportunity for all of us to work together to solve some of those problems," he said, noting the rising cost of health care is an issue at the top of many minds.

Von Ebers' base salary will be $500,000, based on a consultant's recommendation of $400,000 to $600,000, with performance bonuses still under negotiation that could equal half his base salary if he reaches all of his goals, Ebert said.

Ebert said vonEbers was willing to forgo higher salary offers at other firms to take the CEO position.

"I'm really looking to make a long-term commitment to the organization," von Ebers said.

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Adam Hamm, North Dakota insurance commissioner, spoke briefly with von Ebers to congratulate the new CEO. The two will meet as soon as their schedules mesh.

"He's got a very big job ahead of him," Hamm said, adding restoring the public trust is one of the key tasks.

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