Judge temporarily blocks release of BlueCross, Cigna pricing information to state lawmaker

Insurers claim releasing price information will hurt market

Staff file photo / The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee campus in downtown Chattanooga is environmentally designed with glass windows that allow sunlight to warm the building, cutting down on heating costs. In the center of the building is a courtyard with tables and a fountain. Gardens and walking trails are also scattered throughout the campus.

NASHVILLE - Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna Health Insurance have filed federal lawsuits against Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's administration to stop release of their pricing information required under a new law sponsored by a state lawmaker now seeking the information.

Acting on Monday, U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson of Nashville approved requests for a temporary restraining order.

Efforts to reach a BlueCross BlueShield spokesperson as well as Rep. Martin Daniel, a Knoxville Republican, who sponsored legislation requiring the information submitted to the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration be made publicly available, were unsuccessful Monday.

The lawsuits, filed last week, and Richardson's temporary restraining order on Monday were first reported by the Nashville Post.

BlueCross said in its filing that releasing the information violates federal Sherman Act antitrust laws as well as the U.S. Constitution. The nonprofit insurer, the biggest health insurance company in Tennessee, said what Daniel seeks is "extremely competitively sensitive, valuable, confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information.

In its lawsuit, Cigna attorney Erin Paler Polly said disclosing its price information "will stifle competition on the merits, impede Cigna's ability to effectively compete in the market, disadvantage Cigna's market position, and interfere with its customer relationships."

Cigna also argued that disclosure of confidential information on prices would discourage health care providers from aggressively competing for the state's business, "which may restrict output and harm the State as well as competition and consumers generally."

BlueCross said it provided the information to the state Department of Finance and Administration "solely in connection with BCBST performing its obligations under contracts with the State."

The company also said the state had received requests from Daniel for "BCBST's Confidential Information purportedly pursuant to Tennessee's Open Records Laws" and/or "other sunshine" laws' designed to foster government transparency. The Confidential Information is a trade secret with recognized proprietary value."

BlueCross's filing says states the "State Employee Defendants have entered into an agreement with Daniel to produce Confidential Information to him belonging to BCBST (and other insurers that contract with the State) on or about December 16, 2019 purportedly pursuant to these Open Record Laws."

The Nashville Post reported Daniels' records request consists of all 2018 claims made through state employee health plans administered by the insurers, made to a top state Finance Department official, Laurie Lee.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.