Health Care Service Corp., Chicago, signed a letter of intent to acquire 500,000-member Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma in a deal that would further consolidate the fast-shrinking field of Blues plan operators. The not-for-profit companies said they have begun due diligence to examine each other's books and decide whether a merger would make sense. The process could take months, and a deal would require regulatory approval, officials said. No financial terms were disclosed. Health Care Service covers 9.6 million members through Blues plans in Texas, New Mexico and Illinois. The announcement comes less than a month after Anthem and WellPoint Health Networks closed on their $16.4 billion merger, bringing Blues plans in 13 states under one corporate umbrella. With consolidation, the number of independent Blues plans nationwide has dropped to 40 from 117 in 1980. -- by Laura B. Benko
Ill., Southwest Blues plan operators weigh merger
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