BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- An Idaho woman has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against Blue Cross of Idaho, and the case is being consolidated with several others nationwide in the Northern District of Alabama.
Melissa Allen contends that Blue Cross of Idaho, the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and 37 other Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans violated federal anti-trust laws by carving up the country into exclusive territories.
Karen Early, the spokeswoman for Blue Cross of Idaho, said the company will vigorously defend itself against the claims.
"The allegations in the Allen complaint are inaccurate and unfounded and they do not reflect the way Blue Cross of Idaho does business," Early said Wednesday.
The Ada County resident is asking for her lawsuit to be given class-action status on behalf of Idaho residents who have paid health insurance premiums to Blue Cross of Idaho for individual or small group health insurance since 2008 and who still lived in the state in November, when she filed the lawsuit.
The company has not yet responded to Allen's lawsuit, but the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has denied similar allegations made in other states.
In the lawsuit, Allen says Blue Cross of Idaho is by far the largest health insurance company operating in the state, counting as its customers 52 percent of the Idaho residents who subscribe to full-service commercial health insurance in 2011.
The next largest full-service commercial insurer in the state, Regence Blue Shield of Idaho, has 22 percent of that market, according to the lawsuit.
Allen contends Blue Cross of Idaho has such a large market share because it engages in an illegal conspiracy in which 37 of the nation's largest insurance companies — all licensed through the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association — have agreed to give BCID exclusive right to do business in Idaho as long as BCID agrees not to compete in their territories. Allen says in the lawsuit that the agreement gives BCID an illegal monopoly in Idaho, resulting in inflated medical costs and skyrocketing premiums that have garnered the company more than $415 million in capital and surplus.
The agreements violate Idaho's antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, Allen contends.