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NEWS
July 18, 2009 | By Stacey Burling, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department announced yesterday that it planned to investigate whether any of the state's four Blue Cross & Blue Shield insurance companies have engaged in "anticompetitive or unfair trade practices" that violate the law. Examinations of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Capital BlueCross, Highmark Inc., and Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross will begin this month and are to be finished by early 2010. "When Highmark Blue Shield and Independence Blue Cross withdrew their consolidation proposal earlier this year, it was good news for consumers," Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said.
NEWS
January 28, 2009
Now that Pennsylvania officials have exposed the state as one of the least competitive marketplaces for health insurance in the country, they need to find ways to attract more insurers. Consumers came away winners last week after the Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc. merger collapsed, but only because the deal would have worsened an already dismal competitive climate. That still leaves individuals, businesses, doctors and hospitals beholden mainly to the two Blues that dominate the health-insurance market.
BUSINESS
January 25, 2009 | Compiled from The Inquirer, Associated Press, Bloomberg News
"This is a fix for the next 12 to 18 months. This still doesn't resolve the fundamental flaw in the large-pharma model. " - Steve Brozak of WBB Securities L.L.C. on reported merger talks between Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth "Bigger is often better, but it's not always better. " - Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario, after Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc. called off a merger "We're certainly in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions.
BUSINESS
January 25, 2009 | By Jane M. Von Bergen INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Getting a major merger through government regulatory hurdles doesn't come without a price - and the boards of Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc. are savvy enough to know that. The price, this time, was more than they were willing to pay. The merger between Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia and Highmark in Pittsburgh would have created the largest health insurance company in the state. The two insurers withdrew their application to merge on Wednesday, amid certainty that it would be turned down.
NEWS
January 22, 2009
The collapse of plans to merge Pennsylvania's dominant nonprofit health insurers - Independence Blue Cross of Philadelphia and Highmark Inc. in Pittsburgh - represents a major victory for consumers. Neither they nor the business owners who pay premiums for their employees had much to gain from the deal, but the potential risks were real. Despite the merger's promised $1 billion in savings over several years, the insurers said those savings would have minimal impact on premiums.
NEWS
January 22, 2009 | By Jane M. Von Bergen and Angela Couloumbis INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
In the end, fears that competition would be quashed brought down what would have been a health insurance Goliath in Pennsylvania. The petition for the proposed merger of Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross and Pittsburgh's Highmark Inc., the state's two largest health insurers, was withdrawn yesterday by the companies. The decision by Independence and Highmark came in advance of what they knew would be an adverse ruling by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance. Department commissioner Joel Ario, a Gov. Rendell appointee, was to have announced his decision Tuesday.
NEWS
January 22, 2009 | By Inquirer staff writers Jane M. Von Bergen and Angela Couloumbis and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer Bill Toland
For years, observers in the arcane world of health insurance have followed the progress of the potential merger of the state's two largest insurers. Here are some of their reactions to yesterday's decision by Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia and Highmark Inc. in Pittsburgh to drop their bid to join forces. Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow, a Democrat from Lackawanna County, who serves on the board of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, on his disappointment with Insurance commissioner Joel Ario: The merger "would have been a great thing for the commonwealth.
NEWS
January 21, 2009 | By Jane M. Von Bergen and Angela Couloumbis INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Amid signs that Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner is laying out a course for Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc. to follow as they pursue their proposed and controversial merger, members of the boards of the two insurers are meeting today. Even though by law an official decision cannot be rendered until Tuesday, the Insurance Department has let the insurers know privately that it will not approve the merger unless the new company agrees to make an important change in how it markets health insurance in Pennsylvania, among other conditions.
NEWS
November 26, 2008 | By David Balto
Health-insurance premiums have increased by more than 87 percent in the last five years, outpacing the growth of other health-care costs. It seems the only entities that profit from the country's health-care crisis are large insurance companies. President-elect Barack Obama has cited a lack of health-insurance competition and attributed it to a failure of antitrust enforcement. He has criticized the Justice Department for taking a lax attitude toward health-insurance mergers, noting that "there have been over 400 health-care mergers in the last 10 years, and . . . 95 percent of insurance markets in the United States are now highly concentrated.
BUSINESS
November 19, 2008 | By Jane M. Von Bergen INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
If Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner decides to approve the proposed merger between Independence Blue Cross and Highmark Inc., he should impose a raft of conditions designed to limit their market power. So says the Republican-led Senate Banking and Insurance Comittee in draft resolutions scheduled to come for a committee vote tomorrow. The decision on whether to approve the merger rests with Commissioner Joel Ario alone. But the committee has lots of opinions on what Ario should do, starting with a plea that he reject it. "For him to recommend that this merger go through, it's unconscionable," said Sen. Donald J. White, the committee chairman and an insurance broker from Indiana, Pa. White, a Republican, said he believed the merger of Philadelphia-based IBC and Pittsburgh-based Highmark, which will create the largest health insurer in the state, will so limit competition that hospitals and doctors will have little voice in fees and that insurance will become unaffordable to consumers.
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