America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

Blues in North Carolina, Western states agree to hybrid merger

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.

Congress stumps for Medicare Advantage plans

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Medicare Advantage is getting more popular on Capitol Hill. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Almost 70% of Congress signed onto new letters backing Medicare Advantage, the growing alternative to traditional Medicare that collects $250 billion of taxpayer funding.

The bottom line: In what has become an annual tradition, members of Congress praised Medicare Advantage plans' out-of-pocket caps and vision benefits — but did not mention the program's tradeoffs and concerns, like narrower networks of doctors and the controversial billing practices that have led to inflated payments.