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Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO returning to Fargo as board meets to discuss "reward trip" to Caribbean

FARGO - The chief executive officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is returning today to Fargo, and plans to take part this morning in a special telephonic board meeting for the health insurer.

Board members had planned a regularly scheduled meeting Monday, but a special meeting was set for this morning after reports that 35 employees were spending the week at a resort in the Grand Cayman Islands.

BCBS spokeswoman Denise Kolpack said CEO Mike Unhjem would participate in the board meeting by telephone this morning and begin his return to Fargo today.

The employee trip sparks debate at a time when BCBS wants to increase premiums up to 18.3 percent

The Westin Casuarina Resort on the Grand Cayman Islands is the location of a reward trip for top sales staff at Blue Cross Blue Shield, where getaways are an annual motivational tool.

The total budgeted for the trip, attended by 35 employees, each allowed to bring a guest, was up to $227,500, according to figures from Blue Cross Blue Shield, which said it amounts to 90 cents for each policyholder.

"It's a reward trip," said Kolpack, vice president for corporate communications for the insurance provider. "They pay taxes. It's considered part of their salary."

Reward trips for top sales producers have been part of the incentive compensation package for 18 years, and past trips have included destinations in Florida and California.

This year's trip began Monday and ends Friday.