Monica Lindeen (AP photo/Matt Gouras)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen has approved an Illinois company’s plans to buy Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.

Blue Cross is Montana’s largest private health insurer with about 250,000 customers. Health Care Service Corp., a much larger company operating in four states, has offered $40 million for the nonprofit company.

Lindeen says her approval requires the company to keep all 450 jobs in Montana and to later add another 100. She said the company’s expect to complete the acquisition quickly, which it says is needed to compete in a changing insurance marketplace.

Earlier in the week Attorney General Tim Fox gave his approval to the financial aspects of the deal, including that the proceeds of the transaction be paid to a new health care foundation that benefits the public interest.

Health Care Service is the parents of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas as well as in Illiinois, and it also is the parent of Dearborn National

Montana Blue has been applying for permission from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to run a “multi-state plan” (MSP). 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) encourages PPACA health insurance exchanges to offer slots to MSPs, in an effort to increase the level of competition in the health insurance market.

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