'The Blues Conspiracy': Federal court revives antitrust claims against BCBS Michigan over anesthesiology rates

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is facing a revived antitrust lawsuit from the Anesthesia Associates of Ann Arbor over an alleged decadeslong scheme to control the state's anesthesia market.

Anesthesia Associates originally sued BCBSM in 2020 for allegedly violating state and federal laws by purposefully driving down reimbursement rates for anesthesiologists through its dominant market position — thereby lowering care quality and raising prices on consumers.

The original lawsuit was struck down in 2021 because there was no evidence of predatory pricing. In the amended suit filed Sept. 28 in a Michigan federal court, the judge allowed the case to move forward under the "Blues Conspiracy."

The Blues Conspiracy accuses BCBSM of working with other BCBS affiliates to dominate the market by not competing within each other's geographic service areas.

The judge did strike down a second claim in the amended lawsuit, which is described as the "Hospital Conspiracy," or an alleged scheme where hospitals and BCBSM agreed on uniform rates for Michigan anesthesiologists, regardless of care quality. If the anesthesiologist rejected the rate, they would not be allowed to care for patients at the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

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