Idaho Blues accused of anticompetition conspiracy

Blue Cross of Idaho is the subject of a new lawsuit that claims the insurer has violated federal antitrust laws with its disproportionately large share of the state's marketplace.

Idaho resident Melissa Allen has alleged that Blue Cross has participated in an illegal conspiracy with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and 37 other Blues plans to divide the country into exclusive territories to create an unfair market share, reported the Associated Press.

Blue Cross commands 52 percent of the Idaho health insurance market, while the second largest insurer, Regence Blue Shield of Idaho, only has 22 percent of the market. The lawsuit claims Blue Cross's large market share is a result of an agreement in which Blues plans don't compete against each other. In this case, for example, Blue Cross has exclusive rights to the Idaho market as long as it doesn't compete in other Blues plans' markets.

This alleged deal, which Allen says violates Idaho's antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, has caused medical costs to rise and premiums to soar, earning more than $415 million in capital and surplus for the insurer, the AP noted.

But Blue Cross strongly denied the lawsuit's allegations, saying the insurer will defend itself against the claims. "The allegations in the Allen complaint are inaccurate and unfounded and they do not reflect the way Blue Cross of Idaho does business," Karen Early, a Blue Cross spokeswoman said.

Although BCBSA hasn't responded to the Idaho lawsuit, it has denied similar claims made in other legal challenges throughout the country. One lawsuit filed last August alleged anti-competitive rules of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, which controls 90 percent of the state insurance market, has increased costs and reduced provider payments, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article