By: Ted Griggs
Lane Regional Medical Center has filed a federal lawsuit against all of the Blue Cross plans outside Louisiana, alleging the Zachary hospital received lower payments because the health plans illegally conspired to fix prices at artificially low levels.
The Blues have denied those allegations. The national Blue Cross association says its members are independent, community-based and locally operated health plans. A number of courts and regulatory agencies have validated the Blues’ business model.
However, Joe Whatley, lead attorney for the Alabama multidistrict litigation, and co-counsel Lance Unglesby say the Blues’ anticompetitive behavior meant Lane was paid less for its services than it should have been.
Lane’s lawsuit was prompted in part by worries that increasing consolidation among health insurers will mean less choice for consumers and less bargaining power for health care providers. Anthem, the largest of the Blues, recently struck a $48 billion deal to purchase Cigna.
Whatley said he did not have an estimate of the Blues’ anti competitive impact on Lane but the damage to hospitals nationwide amounted to billions of dollars.