PA Blues companies face audit

    Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner says he’ll audit the business practices of four Blue Cross, Blue Shield companies to determine if they’re stifling competition in the Commonwealth.

    Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner says he’ll audit the business practices of four Blue Cross, Blue Shield companies to determine if they’re stifling competition in the Commonwealth.

    Listen:

    [audio:090717teblues.mp3]

    Commissioner Joel Ario says he’s responding to complaints from consumer groups and other insurance companies.

    Ario: We continue to hear from parties that the status quo really is still anti-competitive and that we ought to look into some of those issues, and that’s what we are doing through this examination.

    The insurance department will examine each company’s data sharing and licensing agreements among other business practices.

    Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh-based Highmark are among the four companies that will be audited.

    A spokeswoman says Independence Blue Cross welcomes competition. Judimarie Thomas says the audit diverts attention from factors that are raising the cost of health care and health insurance.

    Ario says the examination should be complete early next year.

    Thomas: We are deeply disappointed by the exam and disturbed by the questions it raises about our business practices. We welcome competition, we’ve always faced competition, and we continue to have intense competition in southeastern Pennsylvania.

    Ario says other companies have said the Blues plans work together in ways that make it hard from them to to grow their business in the Commonwealth. He says determining if those claims are true is critical to the national health reform overhaul.

    Ario: That whole process is premised on robust competition in the state marketplace. If Pennsylvania doesn’t have robust competition among health insurers in this state, then the federal reforms if they pass, won’t work as well here.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.