Blue Cross Faces Antitrust Lawsuit in Illinois

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Illinois affiliate were sued for allegedly restraining health insurance market competition.

The national association and Health Care Service Corp., which does business as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, were named in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago as a class action, or group lawsuit, on behalf of policyholders from August 2008 to the present.

The plaintiffs seek a court order barring Health Care Service from agreeing with the 37-member association on geographic limits to its operations. They’re also asking for unspecified money damages.

“The independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield entities throughout the country, including HCSC, have explicitly agreed not to compete with each other,” violating the federal Sherman Act, according to the complaint.

The unlawful conspiracy extends to use of “non-Blue” brands, the policyholders alleged. Were it not for those agreements, “these entities could and would use their non-Blue brands to compete with HCSC in Illinois,” resulting in better service and lower premiums,they said.

Greg Thompson, a spokesman for Chicago-based Health Care Service, didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours yesterday to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Eric Lail and Madeleine Lovette, representatives of the Chicago-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, didn’t immediately reply after regular business hours to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is Stark v. Health Care Service Corp., 13-cv-04270, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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