Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota has named Paul von Ebers as its new president and CEO, four months after firing CEO Mike Unhjem amid criticism over a Caribbean retreat.

Von Ebers is working now as a consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and plans to start the new job on Sept. 1.

"Cost and quality of health care are key issues," Von Ebers said in a statement. "I don't have all the answers but I do believe in a collaborative approach among all stakeholders."

Blues Chairman Dennis Elbert said the nationwide search for a new CEO drew 43 applicants, but von Ebers "rose to the top," he said. "Integrity and proven leadership" were key in choosing the new CEO.

Unhjem, who had been the Blues' top executive since 1991, was dismissed in March after approving a $250,000 trip to the Grand Cayman Islands as a reward for employees and guests at a time when the company was seeking rate increases. He was given a $2.2 million lump-sum severance payment that the company said was part of an employment agreement reached in 2007, a year after Unhjem was arrested for drunken driving.

Von Ebers said he is aware of the company's "troubled waters," and says steps have already been taken to calm the situation. The company says future trips such as those to the Caribbean have been scrubbed.

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