NU Online News Service, March 24, 2004, 6:11 p.m. EST – The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago, says its member companies have voted unanimously to approve the proposed merger of Anthem Inc. and WellPoint Health Networks Inc.[@@]

Anthem, Indianapolis, and WellPoint, Thousand Oaks, Calif., say they expect to close the merger by mid-year, after they get all necessary approvals from state and federal regulators.

Anthem provides major medical coverage for 12 million people, and WellPoint provides major medical coverage for 15 million people.