The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association approved the planned $16.4 billion merger of its two largest affiliates, Anthem, Indianapolis, and WellPoint Health Networks, Thousand Oaks, Calif. The decision eliminates one more regulatory hurdle for the two for-profit insurers, which together would have $27 billion in assets and cover 26 million people -- or 28% of all Blues beneficiaries -- through Blues plans in 13 states. The proposed merger, announced in October 2003, was approved by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department earlier this year. It still requires approval from several state regulators and both companies' shareholders. The merger would bring the number of independent Blues plans to 39 from 47 in 2000 and 72 in 1999. The deal is expected to close by midyear. -- by Laura B. Benko
Blues association OKs Anthem-WellPoint merger
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