The Pennsylvania Insurance Department says it will examine 4 large health carriers to determine whether they have engaged in anticompetitive or unfair trade practices.

The Pennsylvania Department has hired an outside law firm, Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin P.C.., Philadelphia, will try to complete the examinations by early 2010.

The companies to be examined are Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Capital BlueCross, Harrisburg, Pa.; Highmark Inc., Pittsburgh; and Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia.

Investigators will look to see whether territorial restrictions in the Blues’ licensing agreements are anti-competitive, whether the Blues use their market power to unfair advantage in areas such as provider contracting, and whether there are restrictions on data sharing and other market practices that affect the level of competition, officials say.