A proposed merger between nation's fourth-largest health insurer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana is now in the hands of a former state Supreme Court justice.

William Leaphart is the hearing examiner in the merger between Blue Cross and Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp.

He will make a recommendation to Attorney General Tim Fox and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen now that Lindeen's staff has given the nod to the proposal.

Fox's staff previously recommended approval.

Leaphart will consider those recommendations before making his own to Lindeen and Fox, who have the final say.

Jesse Laslovich, Lindeen's legal counsel, recommended the deal Friday on several conditions. They include the condition that HSCS creates 100 jobs in the state by the end of 2016 and all current employees keep their jobs.