A federal judge has approved Blue Cross Blue Shield companies’ settlement of a sweeping antitrust suit that was filed on behalf of their customers, with the insurers agreeing to pay $2.67 billion and change certain practices that allegedly limited competition in what has been hailed as a victory for consumer rights.
The approval on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor, whose Alabama court handled the litigation, means the settlement is set to start going into effect after 30 days.
It could be delayed, however, if an employer or policyholder appeals the judge’s approval. Employers or policyholders can only appeal if they objected to the settlement when it was under review by the judge, and only a few companies did so.
Among the most prominent was Home Depot, which argued the settlement doesn’t go far enough in boosting competition among the Blue insurers. A spokeswoman for Home Depot declined to comment.
The settlement provides historic and substantial relief to the plaintiffs, Judge Proctor said, through “significant structural changes to Defendants’ practices that are to be closely monitored for compliance with both the antitrust laws” and the settlement’s terms.
Blue Cross Blue Shield have endured a multi-year streak of challenges and settlements in antitrust matters presented by varous groups, including consumers, corporate clients, and public agencies. Only in November, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York’s other transportation agencies filed federal antitrust claims in Manhattan against the Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance network.
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