FARGO – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota has more than recovered from deep losses it sustained in 2013, which resulted in laying off 15 employees and curtailing executive incentives.
North Dakota's largest health insurer finished 2015 with capital and surplus of $302.9 million, up $71.8 million from the previous year, according to figures from the company's annual financial report,
In 2013, the North Dakota Blues' capital and surplus plunged $80.8 million, mostly because of a botched health insurance exchange created for the state of Maryland by Noridian Healthcare Solutions, a subsidiary.
"We've actually climbed to a point that we're financially stronger than when we went into the hole," said Tim Huckle, the North Dakota Blues president and chief executive officer.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota saw its profits from the sale of insurance soar last year, to $84 million. That compares to a gain the previous year of $27.4 million. Net income last year totaled $63.8 million, up from $44.3 million in 2014.
All of Blue Cross Blue Shield's insurance lines saw a profit last year, Huckle said.
"That doesn't happen very much," he said. "Everything seemed to be clicking at the same time."
Although use of health services continues to increase, the upswing was less than predicted, said Dave Breuer, chief financial officer.
Also, now that Noridian Healthcare Solutions has settled its legal dispute with Maryland, the subsidiary can once again be listed as a financial asset, he said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota sold its 51 percent stake in Discovery Benefits to Bell State Bank, which now is Discovery's sole owner, for an undisclosed sum in a deal that closed in January.
"It was a solid-performing company," but fit more in line with Bell State Bank's strategic interests, Huckle said.
"We've always looked at Discovery as an investment," Breuer said. "It's been a good investment."
The sale of its stake in Discovery and other subsidiaries not directly related to health insurance in the past couple of years marks a return to Blue Cross Blue Shield's core business, Huckle said.
Discovery Benefits, which started in 2003 with seven employees, now has more than 580 employees in Fargo and Brookings, S.D.
John Biwer, president of Discovery Benefits, expects no change in daily operations.