Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Blue Cross was born to be sold.

Byline: Winthrop Quigley Journal Staff Writer

For all practical purposes, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico has been for sale for 14 years, long before it reached agreement in July to be purchased by Health Care Service Corp. of Chicago for $55 million.

It has been apparent for some time that New Mexico's Blue, like other Blues across the country, is too small and too poorly funded to survive on its own, according to New Mexico Blue president Norm Becker.

Weiss Ratings Inc., which grades the financial safety of insurance companies on a scale of A (excellent) through E, ranks New Mexico Blue a D plus and its for-profit subsidiary, HMO New Mexico, a D.

It has been that way since the 1980s, which is why the nonprofit Blue formed a joint venture called Rocky Mountain Health Care Corp. in 1986 with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado.

The Blues expected to merge but never did.

New Mexico's then president, Tom Levin, ran Rocky Mountain from Denver. Soon, Colorado Blue had bought the Nevada Blue. Colorado and New Mexico each owned 50 percent of Rocky Mountain.

Within a couple of years, the boards of directors for Colorado, New Mexico and Rocky Mountain were identical, according to former board member James "Bud" Mulcock of Albuquerque. Rocky Mountain was officially a company that managed the Blues. Merger was always the expectation.

Things were working and finances were strong, Mulcock said. But the merger never happened. …

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