Birmingham Business Journal: A GAME-CHANGER FOR THE MARKET?

March 19, 2021 Media

Nearly a decade ago, an Alabama lawsuit took aim at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, which had long dominated the health insurance market in the state. The lawsuit claimed the relationship between the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and its affiliates around the nation violated antitrust laws, resulting in reduced competition and higher prices for employers. That suit was combined with several other similar lawsuits in Alabama and beyond and became a high-profile class action suit. Nine years after the first cases in the suit were filed, it appears on the verge of a conclusion with potential to create

Olivia Webb, an analyst for the American Economic Liberties Project, said the result is a win for large employers, especially ones that cross state lines.

She said the settlement may offer little change for small employees. Webb said industry consolidation also makes it harder for smaller employers.

“For smaller employers like an auto shop that has 15 employees, and maybe can’t garner as much competition between plants, my hope is that this does lower the premium, but I don’t think it’s  going to be a huge change.” Webb said. “I just don’t know if this is going to fix the problem that leads to health plans being really expensive for small employers, especially if they have trouble pitting different plans against each other, or if they can’t go to different states.”

It will still be a while before those answers start to come into focus, as the settlement might not be approved by a judge until later this year.