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Pharmacists' association sues insurance commissioner Documents are sought on Blues' restructuring


Alleging that the state insurance commissioner has illegally withheld documents relating to Blue Cross' reorganization plans, the Maryland Pharmacists' Association has filed suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The association asked the commissioner in August for copies of records concerning nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland's plans to create new nonprofit and for-profit businesses and sell stock to investors.

Commissioner Dwight K. Bartlett III's staff turned over copies of several documents, but withheld others, including one document that the association said it had been promised.

Mr. Bartlett's attorney, Dennis W. Carroll, told the association last month that the withheld documents -- including calendars showing the commissioner's appointments -- were exempt from disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act.

The association particularly complained about one document

that its attorney, Joseph S. Kaufman, initially had been permitted to see.

Mr. Carroll said it was a mistake to show him the document because it was a "privileged" communication from Mr. Carroll to Mr. Bartlett concerning Blue Cross. For that reason, Mr. Carroll would not give Mr. Kaufman a copy of the document or let him see it again.

The lawsuit, filed last week, contends that it was an "abuse of power" to withhold that document after it already had been disclosed. The suit seeks access to that record and others not turned over by the commissioner's office.

Mr. Bartlett responded yesterday, "We have provided to [Mr. Kaufman] and to his client the documents we feel are properly available."

The pharmacists are interested in the possible reorganization of Blue Cross because that could affect how Mr. Bartlett regulates the company, including the way that Blue Cross deals with pharmacists who fill subscribers' prescriptions.

Blue Cross officials say they have not made final decisions concerning restructuring and may not be able to do so until January. The company says it needs to restructure to raise capital and compete more effectively.

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