January 22, 2009

Pennsylvania insurers call off merger

Two Pennsylvania insurance companies, Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross, are blaming state regulators for their decision to call off a planned merger.

Despite the well-documented advantages to the consolidation "¦ the Insurance Department would not approve the transaction, the companies said in a joint statement, Insurance Business reported Thursday.

Regulators cited anti-competitive issues, the statement said.

The statement from Highmark President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Melani and Independent Blue Cross President and CEO Joesph Frick said they fundamentally disagree, with the Insurance Department.

We have shown the combination would not lessen competition in our markets, the statement said, noting the U.S. Justice Department had twice examined the proposal and cleared the transaction each time.

In a statement, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said the department would have declared its disapproval on Jan. 27.

This withdrawal smooths the process and allows all parties to focus on the challenges we all face in addressing the larger healthcare crisis, he said.