Dispute Over Health Insurance Law Lingers

December 19, 2003 - Posted at 9:25 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The state attorney general's office is accusing Arkansas' largest health insurance company of monopolizing the market and "destabilizing" the health-care system.

In a federal court filing, attorneys for the state accuse Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield of creating "exclusive alliances" with hospitals.  The filing says the alliances are based on economic considerations and not quality health care.

The filing is based on the state's 1995 "any willing provider" law.

Under the law, the state's managed-care networks are required to open themselves to any health-care provider that meets their standards.

But an appeals court blocked the law in 1998 after attorneys for Blue Cross and others argued it violated federal rules on employee benefits and retirement.  The court's injunction kept the any-willing provider law from being enforced.  However, a similar law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.  Supporters of the Arkansas law then filed a motion in federal court in October asking that the injunction be dissolved.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)