Blue Cross Blue Shield reaches tentative $2.7 billion antitrust settlement - source

(Reuters) - Blue Cross Blue Shield has reached a tentative $2.7 billion antitrust settlement to resolve claims that the insurance group’s member companies conspired to limit competition and boost prices for policyholders, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The settlement has been approved by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association but still requires approval by its 36 member companies, such as Anthem Inc and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in New York.

It would also require approval by U.S. District Judge David Proctor in Birmingham, Alabama, who has overseen related nationwide litigation since 2013.

In a statement, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association declined to comment, while saying it remained committed to improving the health of its members and local communities. The Wall Street Journal reported the settlement earlier on Thursday.

The case had been brought on behalf of more than 1 million individual and corporate policyholders, whose policies covered tens of millions of Americans.

They alleged that the member companies violated the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws by, among other things, dividing up health insurance markets to avoid competing with each other.

Blue Cross Blue Shield said its member companies cover more than 109 million Americans, or roughly one-third of the U.S. population, including at major employers such as General Motors Co, Microsoft Corp and Walmart Inc.

The Journal said the proposed settlement would drop a rule that two-thirds of each Blue Cross Blue Shield company’s national revenue from health plans and related services come from Blue-branded businesses.

It said the accord would also relax rules requiring national employers seeking coverage to work through Blue insurers covering where their headquarters are located, effectively giving some smaller one-state insurers a hold on major clients.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and David Gregorio