HARRISBURG, Pa., May 12 Acting Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario today announced that the Insurance Department has scheduled a series of public informational hearings across the state to hear from consumers and other affected parties about how the proposed consolidation of Highmark Inc. and Independence Blue Cross, plus related changes, will impact the healthcare marketplace.
The hearings will be held July 8 in Pittsburgh, July 10 in Harrisburg, and July 15 in Philadelphia. Each informational hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and evening sessions, starting at 7 p.m., will also be held. Individuals who wish to offer comments at the hearings are encouraged to pre-register.
The consolidation proposal was submitted to the department in April 2007, at which time the documents were made publicly available and the department began accepting written comments.
The department has received more than 100 individual comments from a range of interested parties, including doctors, purchasers and other health insurers. In addition, the department asked more than 70 follow-up questions of the companies in August and then engaged a team of legal experts, economists and investment bankers to ensure full due diligence in the transaction's review.
Under state law, the department is charged with evaluating the proposed consolidation against a set of statutory standards, including whether the transaction will lessen competition, produce new efficiencies, or be hazardous or prejudicial to the insurance-buying public. Additional standards focus on the financial stability of the company; the competence, experience, and integrity of company management; the fairness and reasonableness of any changes in business operations; and compliance with all other Pennsylvania laws.
The applications and certain related materials are available for review on the department's Web site. Interested parties may view the applications and related materials by visiting www.insurance.state.pa.us and clicking on "Highmark/IBC Filing."
Written comments may be submitted to: Robert Brackbill, Chief, Company Licensing Division, Insurance Department, 1345 Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA 17120; by fax at (717) 787-8557; or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. An index of all public comments submitted is posted and periodically updated on the department's Web site.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a list of dates and locations for the Highmark and Independence Blue Cross "Form A" filings informational hearings. Each day's hearing will begin at 9 a.m. The evening sessions will begin at 7 p.m.
Pre-registration should include the identity of the speaker, and the date and location of the hearing the speaker will be attending. Advanced copies of remarks are encouraged. The department anticipates a 10-minute time slot per individual but will consider other factors. Preference in scheduling will be given to individuals who submit written comments in advance of the hearings and prior to July 2.
If, due to a disability, attendees require the assistance of auxiliary aids or services, call the Director of the Bureau of Administration at (717) 787-4298. People who are hearing impaired should call the department's TTY/TDD telephone number (717) 783-3898.
Tuesday, July 8 - Westin Pittsburgh Convention Center, 1000 Penn Ave.
Thursday, July 10 - Harrisburg Hilton and Towers, One N. Second St.
Tuesday, July 15 - Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, 201 N. 17th St.
CONTACT: Rosanne Placey or Melissa Fox
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Insurance