West Des Moines Agent Sues Wellmark, Inc.

May 17, 2007

A West Des Moines insurance agent is suing Wellmark Inc. for allegedly refusing to do business with him after two companies associated with the agent moved their health plans to a Wellmark competitor.

Frank Berlin filed the lawsuit in Polk County District Court, accusing the state’s largest health insurance provider of trying to monopolize the state’s insurance markets.

Berlin, who operates insurance companies Frank W. Berlin & Associates and BSP Group, said Wellmark violated Iowa competition laws and interfered with contractual relationships. He disputes Wellmark’s claim that they were on good terms before Wellmark ended its relationship with Berlin’s firms March 2.

He said Wellmark is trying to punish him after two “large, highly recognizable” Iowa businesses associated with his companies moved their employee health plans from Wellmark.

“Wellmark has moved aggressively in the marketplace to destroy all aspects of FB&A and BSP’s business and to prevent the employment of the people associated with those firms,” the lawsuit reads.

The two companies are not named, but Berlin’s Web site lists such high-profile clients as the Iowa Cubs, Meredith Corp., Casey’s General Stores and the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

The lawsuit asks for actual and punitive damages on behalf of Berlin’s companies, as well as an injunction preventing Wellmark from terminating its contract with the companies.

Wellmark spokesman Gary Peterson declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying he could not comment on pending litigation.

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