WellPoint to settle national lawsuits

WellPoint announced this morning that it will pay $135 million to settle class-action lawsuits brought by physicians who accuse the company of unfair reimbursement practices. The deal would affect more than 700,000 physicians in the US participating in two major lawsuits against the insurer and other managed care companies. The settlement, which still must be approved by the courts, appears to resolve a major question mark for the nation's largest insurer at a time when it faces increased competition. Last week, rival UnitedHealthcare agreed to acquire PacifiCare for $8.1 billion. Analysts expect the competition between the two giants to increase pressure on smaller insurers in the sector.

- see this story from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)