New York Times Looks at Battle Between WellPoint, Anthem for BCBS Association Plans
The New York Times on Saturday looked at the battle between Wellpoint Health Networks and Anthem Inc. "for dominance in the association of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, a colossus that manages the health care of one in four Americans." The two for-profit companies, both of which were formed from parts of the original not-for-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield network, combined currently own plans in 11 states, and serve 15.3 million of the 82.6 million Blue Cross Blue Shield members nationwide. They are vying for those remaining members and 40 successful plans in the network, which originally arose to help create affordable care during the Depression. Because of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association rules, WellPoint and Anthem are essentially the only companies that can take over other association plans, leaving them to "battle it out for supremacy." As more Americans have shifted away from tightly controlled managed care plans to Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, which offer fewer restrictions, Anthem and WellPoint have seen their fortunes rise, with earnings growth of 51.4% and 32.8%, respectively, in 2001. But as they vie to acquire association plans, they are running into opposition in a number of states from consumers, doctors, hospitals and officials who say that the takeovers are leading to increased health care costs for health plan members and that the companies "often put the interests of Wall Street shareholders ahead of patients" (Freudenheim, New York Times, 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.