Though Appeals Persist, Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Settlement May Already Be Having Impact

Although it’s been more than 10 years since antitrust litigation was first filed against Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, an objection to a settlement reached with one group of plaintiffs has delayed the conclusion of a case that carries significant implications for the health insurance industry. Legal and health policy experts say it could be another year or more before the litigation is finalized — but in the meantime, they suggest that the settlement’s rewriting of Blues plan rules is already sparking consolidation in the market.

In the circa-2012 litigation, a group of health insurance subscribers (health plans and employers) and a cohort of health care providers allege that certain long-held Blues plan practices violate federal and state antitrust laws. Those practices include allocating geographic markets through license agreements and limiting the percentage of non-Blue revenue each plan can earn, among others. Although the subscriber class and the defendants reached a tentative settlement in 2020, and an Alabama district court judge approved it in 2022, a small group of employers including the Home Depot filed appeals last fall that effectively put the settlement on hold.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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