Some Wyomingites have received an email recently that said they might be part of a $2.67 billion settlement involving Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Though in this day and age it’s prudent to be discerning about an email saying you might be entitled to money, it’s not a scam. It is, in fact, a chance for you to potentially receive a rebate on the health insurance premiums you’ve paid in recent years.
Blue Cross companies have agreed to a settlement stemming from a 2012 class-action lawsuit that alleged business practices among the individual companies amounted to a conspiracy that limited competition and raised consumer prices. As part of the settlement the Blue Cross companies admit no wrongdoing, but they have agreed to change some practices.
However, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming representatives see little change for its customers.
“There should be no impact on any of the services that we provide to accounts or to members,” said Raymond Redd, the insurer’s general counsel.
The main thrust of the allegations was that Blue Cross limited competition among its members, particularly for large national accounts. Blue Cross operates in all 50 states, and some of its companies are for-profit entities like Anthem, while others are nonprofits, including the Wyoming company.
Complainants in the case alleged other antitrust violations as well, but the price-fixing claim was the main one. Essentially, they argued, Blue Cross companies agreed to not compete with each other for big accounts, meaning a second entity couldn’t extend an offer for coverage.
Under the settlement, the Blue Cross companies agreed to pay $2.67 billion and make changes to their business practices, including allowing large national, self-funded plans to take second bids from other Blue Cross plans.
“The reported terms are a very good settlement for everybody,” David Boies, one of the lead lawyers representing the plaintiffs, told The New York Times in September when the initial terms were reached. “It will significantly increase competition in the health insurance market, which is obviously a critical market for Americans today. It will result in more competitive offerings and lower prices.”
However, given Wyoming’s small insurance pool, Blue Cross doesn’t anticipate much change in its client base.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming does not have any clients who are large national accounts, so it doesn’t impact us in that way,” Redd said.
Even for those who received an email from the company managing the settlement, it’s not yet clear how much money each will receive. According to BCBSSettlement.com, the settlement website, payouts will depend on how many qualified people respond and which settlement class they are a part of.
The largest part of the settlement, $1.78 billion, will go to individuals and insured groups like employers who were enrolled in plans between Feb. 7, 2008, and Oct. 16, 2020. Self-funded plans active between Sept. 1, 2015, and Oct. 16, 2020, may qualify for part of a $120 million settlement.
The remaining part of the settlement will cover $667 million in lawyers’ fees and expenses for a claimed 434,000 hours of work, along with $102 million in administrative costs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming will be responsible for a “proportionate” part of the settlement, Redd said, but because the terms of the deal are confidential, he declined to give an exact dollar figure.
Wyoming Blue Cross “is one of the smallest Blue plans in the system,” he said. “So the percentage of Blue Cross’s responsibility is very, very small.”
Blue Cross of Wyoming isn’t contacting its customers who qualify. Instead, the company is directing them to the settlement website, which has an extensive list of frequently asked questions and other information. To find out if you or your company is eligible, you can fill out a claim form on the settlement site.
To maintain your right to sue the Blue Cross companies, you can opt out of the settlement, which means you will receive no money. You can also elect to speak at the final hearing on the settlement, scheduled for Oct. 21. Requests to opt out or speak at the hearing are due by July 28, and claim forms for the settlement by Nov. 5.