National brands sue Anthem, BCBS, cite 'continuing conspiracy' to stifle competition

A cast of national brands — including the likes of FedEx, Boeing, Meijer, and Walgreens — filed an antitrust complaint against Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield, alleging that the insurers aimed to use their market leverage to influence employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

The complaint, filed Sept. 4, alleges that the insurers charged rates that utilized their competitive advantage to clients, which include some of the challenging companies, thereby resulting in stifled competition.

The filing parties' complaints largely fall into the same narrative: Many use Blue Cross Blue Shield or Anthem self-insured or administrative services only plans, but costs are high and other options are limited due to noncompete agreements. 

Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield's size and reach was also of concern in the complaint. The national brands argued that simultaneous competition among subsidiaries for large national accounts could create competition, but internal horizontal agreements limited which subsidiaries competed for national accounts, thereby lowering competition. 

"Although we are unable to provide specific details on active litigation, Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans remain focused on the goal we have had for more than 90 years: improving access to quality healthcare for all Americans and the health of our local communities," the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in an emailed statement.

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