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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Cambia Health Solutions, the parent of Regence Blues plans in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah, are joining forces to combine corporate and other back-end services under the Cambia name.

The big picture: Transactions among Blue Cross Blue Shield plans have been rare. But this deal is another version of health insurance companies teaming up to diversify outside of their traditional insurance business, lower administrative costs, and possibly increase bargaining power over hospitals and doctors.

Details: Cambia and BCBS of North Carolina are calling the deal an "affiliation," not a merger.

  • Both insurers will "maintain separate assets, capital and revenues" as well as their existing names, the companies said in a fact sheet. BCBS of North Carolina has about $10 billion in annual revenue, and Cambia has about $6 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The companies also will continue to handle their own contracts with hospitals and doctors.
  • Patrick Conway, the head of the North Carolina Blues and a former Medicare official, will be the CEO of the combined entity.

Flashback: In 2016, Cambia CEO Mark Ganz, who will be executive board chair of this new entity, told me health insurers couldn't rely on their old business models: "The health plan of today is going to be the health solutions company of tomorrow. It's going to be something different."

Go deeper

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

State of play: Breyer said his retirement will take effect when the court "rises for the summer recess (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed."

COVID created an epic U.S. trade gap

Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.

Updated 1 hour ago - Technology

Pandemic gave cover to online dating scams

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.

Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.