When Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Montana was purchased by Health Care Service Corporation, one of the requirements from Montana officials was the creation of a non-profit foundation to improve healthcare in the state.

The Montana Healthcare Foundation was thus created, and the first board members of the new organization were announced on Tuesday, December 3.

Communications Director for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, John Barnes, said the seven candidates must first meet the requirements necessary to be members of the board, once of which is that they have no formal relationship with any health insurance entity.

"A search committee headed up by Ed Eck, former dean of the UM Law School looked at over a hundred applications, and chose seven potential board members," Barnes said. "They are Dr. Paul Cook of Red Lodge, Michael Harrington of Missoula, Judith LaPlan of Sidney, Joanne Pieper of Belgrade, Denis Prager of Clyde Park, William Underinner of Billings, and Mignon Waterman of Helena."

Barnes said the attorney general must approve the seven proposed appointees.

"It's the attorney general's responsibility under statute that these nominees meet the statutory criteria," Barnes said. "If they do, then they become members of the board. Then, they'll convene a meeting and set about the task of building this foundation, choosing its scope of activities and fine-tuning its mission in terms of how it's going to improve healthcare for Montana and Montanans."

Communications Director for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, John Barnes