The Michigan Association of Health Plans is “hopeful” the recent $2.67 billion antitrust settlement with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBSM) will encourage “employers and individuals” to consider other plans.

MAHP Executive Director Dominick Pallone said its member health plan providers are “pleased that the court has finally accepted the terms” of the landmark settlement against Michigan’s largest insurer.

“For years, the American Medical Association (AMA) has consistently ranked Michigan as one of the least competitive states in the nation for health insurance,” he said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that this settlement will raise awareness of BCBS’ anti-competitive behavior and encourage all employers and individuals shopping for health insurance coverage to regularly evaluate their insurance provider options and consider other health plans offering more affordable policies.”

The settlement could affect more than 100 million class members, but how many are in Michigan was not immediately known. Class members were notified earlier of the proposal settlement via direct notice, a postcard or electronically.

A BCBS spokesperson said it is “premature for us to comment because the court’s approval of the settlement kicks off a 30-day window where parties may appeal, and the settlement won’t be final until that window closes, or until all appeals have been concluded.” She did not say if BCBS plans to appeal.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor in Alabama’s Northern District approved the settlement, which calls for the insurers to pay $2.67 billion and change certain practices that allegedly limit competition.

“The settlement provides … significant structural changes to defendants’ practices that are to be closely monitored for compliance with both the antitrust laws and the injunctive relief terms of the Settlement by a Monitoring Committee … for a period of five years following the entry of judgment approving the settlement,” the judge wrote.

The five-member committee will mediate certain disputes related to the settlement, which represents one of the largest antitrust class settlements in history.

Some did object for varying reasons, including those claiming the settlement did not go far enough in boosting competition and claiming an improper burden was placed on the ability of self-funded accounts to opt out, but that concern was resolved, according to court documents.

A group of employers and individual policyholders with BCBS coverage filed the class-action lawsuit in 2012, alleging the insurance provider violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by entering into unlawful agreements that limited competition in the markets for selling health insurance.

The plaintiffs alleged BCBS allocated geographic territories and limited member plans from competition, even when a Blue name wasn’t used.

The plaintiff’s attorneys were awarded about $627 million in attorney fees and nearly $41 million to cover litigation costs, according to the court’s order.

Throughout the nine years of litigation, more than a dozen motions to dismiss have been filed as well as more than 150 discovery motions, which led to 91 discovery orders. The case also involved more than 15 million pages of documents and more than 120 depositions of BCBS and third-party witnesses, according to Proctor’s order.

This story courtesy of MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.