Three Oklahomans have filed a federal antitrust lawsuit that accuses Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma of anti-competitive practices that have caused Oklahomans to pay higher health insurance premiums.
The lawsuit claims Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma and several affiliated companies have conspired to inflate the cost of health insurance premiums in the state with anti-competitive agreements.
Hilarie Houghton, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
In a written statement, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the national organization that oversees 38 member companies, said it believes the litigation is meritless.
“Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are committed to keeping health care costs as low as possible for our 100 million members,” the statement said.
“The system has worked well for decades in keeping costs down, rewarding medical professionals for providing quality care, better managing the care of patients with chronic conditions and encouraging everyone to make healthier choices to prevent disease.”
Nicholas Rockforte, one of eight attorneys representing the Oklahomans in the case, said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has anti-competitive agreements that keep Blue Cross and Blue Shield member companies based in other states from competing for customers in Oklahoma.
“These companies simply sit in their respective territories and demand whatever price they like,” said Rockforte, an attorney in Plaquemine, La.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma is the state's largest health insurer and about 50 percent of Oklahomans who subscribe to full-service health insurance are covered through the company or one of its associated companies, the lawsuit claims.
A group of trial attorneys based in Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee filed the lawsuit in February on behalf of three Oklahomans insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma. The lawsuit was filed in Logan County District Court and later moved to U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
The lawsuit seeks damages on behalf of Oklahomans who have paid high insurance premiums in the state.
The Oklahoma litigation is one of several lawsuits that have been filed against the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and many of its 38 member companies.
In December, the Judicial Panel of Multi-District Litigation ruled that the cases would be consolidated and heard by a federal court in Birmingham, Ala. It is likely that the Oklahoma lawsuit will be consolidated with the other cases, Rockforte said.