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Ford Motor Co's health insurance antitrust suit filed too late, Blue Cross argues

Credit: REUTERS/ALY SONG

By Mike Scarcella

Aug 25 (Reuters) - Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and its Michigan affiliate have asked a U.S. judge to dismiss a lawsuit from Ford Motor F.N accusing them of a conspiracy that artificially inflated how much the automaker was paying for insurance premiums and other commercial health insurance services.

In a pair of filings, the Blue Cross defendants on Thursday argued Ford had not shown that the insurers blocked any competing company from selling insurance products.

The insurers also alleged that Ford's claims, filed in May in Detroit federal court, were either entirely or mostly outside of legal time frame for antitrust lawsuits.

Michigan's Blue Cross Blue Shield said in its filing that it "has been operating openly — in full view of Ford — for years and invested billions of dollars building the Blue brand in Michigan. If Ford had a claim to bring, it should have brought it long ago."

Ford's lawsuit is an offshoot of a multibillion-dollar antitrust case against Blue Cross that has been litigated since 2012. Ford was among other major U.S. companies that opted out of a $2.7 billion dollar settlement in 2020 in Alabama federal court.

The settlement is under review in a U.S. appeals court. A separate class action from healthcare providers is ongoing.

A Ford spokesperson on Friday declined to comment.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association declined to comment, and its Michigan affiliate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In its complaint, Ford alleged that Blue Cross organizations have schemed to curb competition, depriving the vehicle manufacturer of "the opportunity to purchase health insurance products and services from a lower cost competitor and/or at a price set by the free market."

Ford said it had spent more than $500 million on premiums since 2009 for certain Blue Cross products. Ford's lawsuit seeks triple damages and other remedies.

In its filing, the Michigan Blue Cross affiliate defended its role as the state's exclusive Blue Cross-branded licensee.

"Ford ostensibly complains that it is not able purchase 'Blue' insurance products from more companies, but that is not an injury in any sense of the word," lawyers for the Michigan affiliate wrote. "It is merely the result of lawful trademark use."

The affiliate's lawyers also argued that Ford had not shown how the Michigan licensee holds market power in a nationwide insurance market.

The case is Ford Motor Co v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Mutual Insurance Company and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, No. 2:23-cv-11286-LVP-EAS.

For Ford: J. Travis Mihelick of Dinsmore & Shohl

For Blue Cross Blue Shield Association: Karin DeMasi of Cravath, Swaine & Moore

For Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan: Todd Stenerson of Shearman & Sterling

Read more:

Ford Motor Co sues Blue Cross Blue Shield in antitrust case over 'astronomical' profit

Class lawyers defend $667 mln fee award in insurance antitrust case

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella)

((Mike.Scarcella@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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