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Blue Cross-Blue Shield sued by Justice Dept., Michigan attorney general

By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wkar/local-wkar-929875.mp3

LANSING, MI –
Michigan's attorney general and the U.S. Justice Department are suing Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan. As Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reports, the lawsuit says Blue Cross is driving up health care costs at hospitals by stifling competition between insurance companies.

AUDIO:
The lawsuit accuses Blue Cross of price rigging by forcing hospitals to charge other insurance companies more for the same services.

John Sellek is with the state attorney general's office. He says it looks like Blue Cross is trying to expand its market dominance in Michigan.

"And the way to do that is to drive out other companies," he says. "How do you drive out other companies? You make sure customers don't want to go there because their prices are too high."

But Blue Cross spokesman Andy Hetzel says the clauses simply require hospitals to offer services at the lowest possible cost to the not-for-profit company's four million customers.

"We deliver billions of dollars in discount savings to our customers and members every year," he says. "We believe that promotes the affordability of coverage for our members."

The lawsuit targets Blue Cross contracts with about half of all the hospitals in Michigan.

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