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August 24, 2015

U. of Wisconsin Foundation Draws Millions From Health Gift

The University of Wisconsin Foundation has collected more than $30 million in fees from a $600-million contribution to medical research and education by Blue Cross Blue Shield United of Wisconsin in 2003, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, citing a recently released five-year legislative audit of how the state's two medical schools are using the money.

The gift, made as part of the formerly nonprofit insurer's conversion into a commercial entity, was split into endowments for the Medical College of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin's school of medicine and was earmarked for research, education, and public-health projects. The foundation annually draws about 1 percent of the value of the university's portion, amounting to more than $3 million a year.

Officials of the foundation, which serves as the university's fundraising arm, said the fee is applied to all of the university's endowed funds and was part of the 2003 gift agreement with Blue Cross. Critics of the arrangement, including the insurer's former chief executive and a board member with the organization that monitors the donation's use, said the foundation is effectively diverting a portion of the gift to subsidize its operations.