Judge upholds BCBS companies' antitrust settlement

A federal judge upheld a $2.7 billion settlement agreement resolving allegations Blue Cross Blue Shield Association members engaged in anti-competitive actions to drive up costs. 

In a ruling issued Oct. 25, a three-judge panel in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the settlement agreement, first reached in August 2022. As part of the agreement, BCBS companies agreed to 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. 

BCBS members first brought the case in 2012, alleging that BCBS companies conspired to divide up markets to avoid competing with each other, driving up costs for consumers. 

The settlement also created the opportunity for certain large employers to seek coverage from a second BCBS plan in addition to seeking coverage from the BCBS company located where the employer is headquartered.

In September 2022, Home Depot and other litigants filed a challenge to the settlement agreement, arguing the settlement did not achieve the lawsuit's original objective, which was to stop BCBS companies from receiving exclusive geographic branding rights. 

Home Depot argued the settlement could harm future antitrust enforcement and preclude individuals from bringing cases against BCBS companies in the future. 

In the ruling, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Pryor said these claims are "overstated." 

"The release in this appeal is limited and affects the rights of only some private individuals to sue Blue Cross, and it does not affect public enforcement of the antitrust laws," Mr. Pryor wrote. 

A spokesperson for the BCBS Association told Becker's the organization is "pleased with the Court's decision to affirm the approval of the Subscriber Settlement." 

"We look forward to putting the litigation behind us, once the appeals process is complete," the spokesperson said. 

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