NU Online News Service, Sept. 6, 9:34 a.m. – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius says she will approve efforts by a unit of Anthem Companies Inc., Indianapolis, to acquire Kansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Topeka, Kan., if she finds the affiliation would be in the best interests of the policyholders.

“Our primary focus with the possible affiliation between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is protecting Kansas policyholders,” Sebelius says in a statement posted recently on the Kansas Insurance Department Web site.

Kansas Blue is now a nonprofit, policyholder-owned mutual insurer, Sebelius says.

Anthem applied for permission to acquire Kansas Blue in May, along with a draft plan for converting Kansas Blue to a for-profit, shareholder-owned company.

Once Kansas Blue converted to a stock charter, through a process called “demutualization,” Anthem would acquire Kansas Blue’s stock.

The Kansas department has retained consultants to assist in evaluating the proposed demutualization and acquisition.

Because the plan of conversion is in draft form, the insurance department still has the opportunity to provide comment on the plan, Sebelius says.

After the department completes its review, Kansas Blue will present a final plan of conversion to its board of directors for approval, according to the department.

If the Kansas Blue board adopts the final plan of conversion, Kansas Blue will file the final plan of conversion with Sebelius.

Kansas law requires the commissioner to hold public hearings before ruling on the conversion and acquisition, Sebelius says.