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Michigan becomes a battleground as healthcare-plan providers sue

Many Detroit readers probably have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as their healthcare provider. It's one of the largest organizations with which employers contract to provide their workers with healthcare benefits.

It may be of interest, then, that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is facing a lawsuit that alleges in engaged inunfair business practices.

Aetna, which is one of the nation's largest healthcare-plan providers, filed suit in Detroit Tuesday against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. In its suit, Aetna is alleging that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan violated federal antitrust laws. Essentially, Aetna's claim is that Blue Cross Blue Shield gradually raised the rates paid by Michigan customers over a four-year-period and then turned around and gave that money to hospitals if the hospitals agreed to charge other healthcare-plan providers (like Aetna) rates that were the same as or higher than Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's rates.

Aetna claims that this practice was a primary reason it had to pull out of the Michigan market. Because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan unfairly tampered with the market, it could not compete and its withdrawal leaves consumer with fewer choices.

Of course, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sees it differently. A spokesman for the company called Aetna's claims "sour grapes" and said they were all false.

Source: The Detroit Free Press, "Legal challenges mounting for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan," Dec. 7, 2011

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