The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department approved the proposed $16.4 billion merger of Anthem, Indianapolis, and WellPoint Health Networks, Thousand Oaks, Calif. The action eliminates one of the biggest hurdles for the two for-profit insurers, which together would have $27 billion in assets and cover 26 million members through Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 13 states. Providers and consumer groups have expressed concern that the merger of the nation's two largest Blues insurers would result in serious antitrust issues. The deal, announced in October 2003, still requires approval from state regulators, both companies' shareholders and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Anthem said it expects the deal to close by midyear. -- by Laura B. Benko
Anthem-WellPoint merger clears federal review
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