Three employers have appealed a $2.67 billion antitrust settlement with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, potentially altering the terms of the landmark federal agreement and extending the timeline of the 10-year case.
Retailer Home Depot filed its appeal Thursday, while design consultancy Topographic and benefits providers Employee Services Inc. appealed the settlement the day before, according to filings submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
None of the companies’ legal briefs explain why they are appealing Judge David Proctor’s decision to approve the deal last month. Home Depot, Topographic and Employee Services didn't respond to interview requests. "As the settlement approval process continues to progress, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association remains committed to finalizing the agreement and implementing its terms," the organization said in a statement.
Policyholders and employers sued the Blues group and 34 licensees in 2012, alleging association rules that limit the amount of revenue member plans can generate from non-Blues-branded businesses, and geographic constraints on where Blues companies could sell insurance, violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
In previous legal filings, Home Depot said the deal still bars it and other large employers from requesting bids from more than one Blues plan, ends its right to pursue additional antitrust claims against the Blues and is tilted against self-insured employers.
Nearly 94% of the $2.67 billion is allocated to class members that paid monthly premiums to Blues carriers, while self-insured businesses would receive 6.5% of the dollars.
“The proposed settlement trades away the best interests of self-funded employers in order to facilitate a global bargain overwhelmingly focused on the interests of premium paying class members,” Home Depot wrote last September. Topographic and Employee Services made similar arguments in filings presented to the court last October.
Along with the $2.67 billion in damages the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and its members companies agreed to pay, Proctor ruled that some large employers may request bids from two Blues plans. Previously, Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates were barred from seeking business with large companies already contracted with other Blues carriers.
The court-approved settlement also lifted the association’s brand requirement, which limited the amount of revenue Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates could generate from non-Blues branded products.
A group of patients opted out of the deal last year,in part because they disagreed with the $668 million plaintiffs attorneys are poised to collect. A group of providers has made similar antitrust allegations against the Blue Cross and Blue Association in a separate and ongoing lawsuit.