Anthem Blocked In Bid To Buy BCBS of Kansas

The consolidation of member plans in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association has hit yet another snag. The Kansas Supreme Court on Aug. 6 upheld an order blocking the $190 million sale of the not-for-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas to Anthem, a for-profit operation.

In making the decision, the court cites an independent review team's findings that the merger would raise premiums by $248 million over the next five years.

Though the insurers dispute that, they're not going to continue pursuing the sale because there's “no other legal recourse,” Anthem spokesman Edward West tells the Indianapolis Star.

Anthem officials hasten to add that, though disappointed, the insurer will “continue to seek expansion through affiliations with other health plans.”

BCBS of Kansas officials say they have no choice but to affiliate with a national health plan, and they'll keep trying. The plan covers about 400,000 enrollees.

“We've lost 80,000 members since December of 2001,” Graham Bailey, BCBS of Kansas spokesman, tells the Wichita Eagle.

“The population is not growing, and some groups that we used to cover or were prospects for us have been merged or associated out of state. Our prospect is going down, our membership is going down, and that means fewer members to spread risk and administrative costs across.”

There are four plans within the Blues that are for-profit, publicly traded companies: Cobalt, Anthem, WellPoint, and WellChoice. Anthem and WellPoint are two of the biggest health plans in the country. The Indianapolis Star describes Anthem as one of the handful of “aggressive Blues companies trying to buy smaller and often minimally profitable Blues plans and convert them from policyholder-owned companies into for-profit operations.”