Federal judge gives final approval to $2.67B BCBS antitrust settlement

A federal judge in Alabama has approved a final settlement of $2.67 billion with Blue Cross Blue Shield companies following a decade long legal battle over alleged anticompetitive behavior that negatively affected members, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 9.

The final approval includes mandating the insurers drop a BCBS Association rule that requires two-thirds of national net revenues from health plans and related services to come from Blue-branded products. 

Another rule the settlement struck down had required large employers to work with the Blue insurer that offers coverage where the employer is located so that BCBS companies could avoid competing with one another for large contracts.

The settlement did not achieve the lawsuit's original objective, which was to stop BCBS companies from receiving exclusive geographic branding rights, according to the Journal.

The settlement stemmed from an antitrust lawsuit that accused the BCBS companies of conspiring to divide markets and avoid directly competing with each other. 

The original class-action lawsuit was brought in 2012 by BCBS plan members who alleged the anticompetitive behavior was raising costs on policyholders.

The judge gave preliminary approval for the settlement in 2020. Now fully approved, it will go into effect after 30 days, according to the Journal.

Members that objected to the settlement while it was under review are still able to appeal the final decision, a small group that includes Home Depot.

Elevance Health, which owns BCBS companies in 14 states, estimates its share of the settlement is $594 million.

A BCBSA spokesperson told the Journal it was pleased with the final approval and is committed to implementing the agreement.

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