November 2, 2020
OLYMPIA, Wash. – A $2.67 billion settlement to resolve antitrust charges against health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield will result in payments to some consumers of Premera and Regence health plans in Washington.
The settlement signed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama affects the 36 Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers nationwide. In Washington, this includes Premera Blue Cross, Regence BlueShield, Regence BlueShield of Oregon, and Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Inc.
The agreement resolves claims that the insurance group’s member companies conspired to limit competition and raise prices for policyholders.
The payments to affected policyholders will be at least $5, according to court documents. But Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the greater benefit will be increased competition among health insurers, especially those in other states that historically have had fewer choices in markets dominated by Blue Cross Blue Shield companies.
“This settlement should increase competition, which is great news,” Kreidler said. “Fortunately, we’ve had a robust health insurance market for years in Washington. The settlement should put all companies on notice that they need to do right by consumers. Hopefully, it will also lead to more transparency throughout the health care market.”
The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2013 on behalf of millions of individual and corporate policyholders. Blue Cross Blue Shield member companies cover more than 100 million Americans, or roughly a third of the nation’s population.
The association representing the companies denied allegations of trying to limit competition, but said the settlement is “the right action at the right time.”
Health insurance companies in Washington operating under the Blue Cross Blue Shield:
- Premera Blue Cross with approximately 616,917 enrollees
- Regence BlueShield with an estimated 437,916 enrollees
- Regence BlueShield of Idaho, Inc. with an estimated 1,758 Washington enrollees
- Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon with an estimated 60,431enrollees
Many of these policyholders are enrolled in Washington’s individual health insurance market. Kreidler’s office recently approved 13 health insurers to offer plans for 2021. For the second straight year, the average premium change dropped by over 3%.
Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15.