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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to cut 450 information technology jobs

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the state's largest nonprofit health insurer, said Tuesday it plans to eliminate about 450 information technology jobs over the next four years.

The Eagan-based company said in a statement it will make the job cuts gradually, beginning in 2016 and extending through 2019, to make them "transparent and predictable" to the employees involved, according to MPR News.

The company currently has about 3,500 employees throughout the state, with about 600 of them in IT, MPR News notes.

The job cuts are coming because Blue Cross and Blue Shield is upgrading to more flexible and efficient technology platforms and phasing out older IT systems, according to the company's statement.

Employees were told Monday afternoon. The company said it is working with the employees who will be affected, adding that "many will be asked to remain with Blue Cross for extended periods of time in order to complete current projects, while others will receive opportunities for training to pursue other placement opportunities within the company," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

As for the job prospects for those who are being laid off, a labor market expert said the outlook is quite good.

"Much like the Target situation with people with skills and qualifications that are in demand — people with that kind of skill set are generally not going to have a very hard time gaining re-employment," state labor market economist Steve Hine told MPR News.

The Star Tribune notes the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield has lost money in the past two years.

In 2013, the operating loss was $29.5 million and in 2014 it was $8.2 million, the newspaper reports.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is one of eight Minnesota health insurers proposing double-digit rate increases for some of their individual and small group insurance plans in 2016. The company said in June it wants to raise the cost of some plans more than 50 percent.

The Star Tribune reported at the time that an estimated 171,000 people would be affected by Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s proposed rate hikes.

Under federal rules, insurers who want to raise rates by 10 percent or more have to make those proposals public months before they would take effect in October.

State regulators are reviewing the proposed rate increases to determine whether they're justified, and they could be modified after that review is complete.

It's worth noting that last year many big rate requests around the country were amended after they were reviewed by regulators.

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