Insurers have consolidated power; BCBS of Michigan faces new lawsuit;

> Health insurers are consolidating their market power throughout the nation as nearly two-thirds of U.S. cities are dominated by two carriers and nearly half of all metro areas are controlled by one, according to the Wall Street Journal. The American Medical Association study found that in 60 percent of the nation's 359 largest metro areas, the two largest health insurers had a combined market share of 70 percent or more, and in 48 percent of cities, one insurer had a market share of 50 percent or more. Article

> A fifth lawsuit has been filed against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan alleging the insurer violated antitrust statutes by demanding contracted hospitals overcharge patients who are insured by BCBS competitors, reports Becker's Hospital Review. The lawsuit previously filed by the U.S. Justice Department and former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox against BCBS alleges the agreements with the hospitals stifle competition and drive up consumers' insurance costs. One class-action suit has already been dismissed, and a U.S. district judge will decide whether to consolidate the remaining suits. Article

> Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts says first-year results show its alternative quality contract is on track to achieve its goal of reducing annual healthcare cost trends by one-half over five years while improving patient quality of care. The AQC has already positively influenced two major healthcare cost drivers--hospital readmissions and the use of emergency rooms for non-emergent care, reports Insurance Networking News. Article

> Oklahoma State Sen. Earl Garrison wants insurance companies to be accountable to citizens and justify any rate increases. He introduced Senate Bill 354, which would ensure that premium rate information relating to the individual health insurance market be readily available to the public, according to the Insurance Journal. Article

> And Finally… Is your heater making you fat? Article