Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers reach tentative antitrust settlement for $2.7 bln - WSJ

Sept 24 (Reuters) - The Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance group has reached a tentative settlement in an antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of customers that would require a payout of about $2.7 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Plan subscribers and healthcare providers allege that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield member plans have agreed not to compete with one another, which violates the Sherman Act and other state antitrust laws.

The lawsuits were first filed about eight years ago.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has signed off on the settlement, but it has not been approved by the boards of its 36 member insurers, including Anthem Inc, the report here said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The settlement has yet to receive approval from U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor in Birmingham, Alabama, who is presiding over the case, the Journal said.

Even if a settlement is finalized, Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurers still face a parallel antitrust suit filed on behalf of healthcare providers, which alleges that the insurers illegally pushed down the payments they receive for medical services, the Journal report said.

“We are proceeding with litigation,” said Joe Whatley, a lead attorney for healthcare providers.

Under the tentative settlement, the Blue insurers will also drop a rule that limits the share of each company’s total national revenue that can come from a business that is not under Blue brands, the report said.

A spokeswoman for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association told Reuters that the organization cannot comment on the ongoing litigation.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel