Local News

Blue Cross Blue Shield Sues Organization Critical Of Its Practices

Posted July 6, 2005

— Stung by criticism that it is wasting ratepayers' money, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is headed to court. The state's largest health insurer is suing a special interest group that made its name by being critical of the company.

When Blue Cross Blue Shield spent close to $500,000 on corporate promotion and partying at the U.S. Open, ProCare, a non-profit organization funded by non-deductible memberships and donations, made sure the public knew about it. When the insurer paid for 275 top sellers and guests to vacation in the Carribean, ProCare spread the news.

Blue Cross argues that it can take criticism, but it cannot take the release of confidential business information. So, the non-profit insurer fired back with a lawsuit claiming ProCare wrongfully obtained internal documents detailing U.S. Open spending and posted them online.

"When a special interest group crosses the line of criticism to an illegal scheme to take and publish proprietary information, that's when we had to act," said Mark Stinneford, a spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Political strategists Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn are the brains behind the anti-Blue Cross crusade. Pearce said ProCare will fight the lawsuit and continue criticizing Blue Cross spending.

ProCare is not a registered lobbying group and its members are not identified.

"We represent patients, doctors, nurses, hospitals, mental health professionals," Pearce said.

ProCare's opposition to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina dates back to 2003 when doctors and pharmacists helped form the group to fight the insurer's bid to convert to a for-profit company. Blue Cross eventually abandoned the effort.

ProCare picked up its online criticism again when the non-profit posted $350 million in profit over two years.


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