Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Calls It Quits In Sioux City

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it's shutting down the Sioux City office of First Administrators - a subsidiary that handles insurance plans for customers across Iowa.

Wellmark just expanded the First Administrators office here a few months ago, announcing 50 new jobs.

Now, the entire office is getting shut down instead.

Wellmark blames it on, "an ever increasing number and complexity of federal regulations, mandates, and rising costs," which is little consolation to the employees who are about to start looking for work.

City officials aren't happy with today's decision and they're worried about the widespread effects for employees and the economy.

"Well, it's very disappointing to have the announcement today that they're moving the jobs to Des Moines or eliminating some jobs," said Marty Dougherty, Economic Development Director. " We do have pretty low unemployment in Sioux City, so that's a good thing. Obviously it's tough on folks."

The economic decision means the consolidation of three branches: Rapid City, Sioux City and Des Moines. But here it'll mean the layoff of nearly a 100 workers.

The city is already looking for new jobs for the laid-off workers.

"I think our focus will be on trying to recruit companies or help local companies expand that have a need for workers with these skill sets," said Chris McGowan, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce President.

Wellmark also says it will try to find alternatives for its employees.

"You know this is not a decision that was made lightly. The employees that have worked in the Sioux City office have really done outstanding work and although our business strategy led us to this decision, we're fully committed to the employees at each of these locations and intend to provide them with as much support, information and assistance as possible," said Courtney Greene, Public Relations Manager for Wellmark.

The company plans to complete the transition to Des Moines by the end of the year.

Wellmark got $700,000 dollars in state financing to expand the Sioux City office this year.

No word tonight on whether they'll have to give that money back.