Elevance Health, BCBSLA put $2.5B merger on ice—again

Elevance Health's $2.5 billion acquisition of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) is on pause yet again amid concerns about the impact on competition.

BCBSLA posted a statement on its website Wednesday saying that while the insurer wants to find a "strong partner" that can support it into the future, the team has also heard the skepticism in the Pelican State.

"We continue to hear from our stakeholders that they want Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to remain their trusted partner in their healthcare journey, and we pursued this transaction to help us do exactly that—by changing for the better," the insurer said. "However, it is clear that our stakeholders need more time and information to understand the benefits of the changes we have proposed."

"This is why we have decided to again pause the process in our proposed transaction with Elevance Health," BCBSLA said.

In the statement, the insurer said it had withdrawn its filing with the state's Department of Insurance and would cancel the policyholder vote on the matter set for later this month.

Pushback from Louisiana regulators led the two insurers to put the merger plan on ice in September before reviving it in December with a new filing from BCBSLA. The Blues plan sought approval to transition into a for-profit entity, which would allow Elevance Health to acquire it.

In the updated version of the application, the insurers made changes to their plans to increase state oversight into its operations, such as allowing for a board member appointed by Louisiana's governor.

BCBSLA said in the statement that given the current conversation around the merger, "now is not the right time to make this bold step."

"We know that change is hard, even when change is made for the right reasons," the insurer said. "We continue to believe we need a strong partner to help position us for a vibrant future, and to help us make healthcare more affordable and to help us do more to improve the health of members and policyholders.