By By By KELLY BERNSTEIN, Associated PressGNC plans to buy an affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS) in a deal worth $8.5 billion, the company announced Wednesday.GNC is buying Blue Cross from Blue Shield, which had been part of a consortium led by American Express, according to a statement from the company.
The combined company will offer services such as health care, life insurance and home insurance.GPC, which is based in Greensboro, North Carolina, said it will retain Blue Cross’ core competency and will also continue to provide its own branded health insurance coverage to all of its 1.4 million members.
The company’s parent company, UnitedHealth Group, is also part of the deal.
“The merger will bring together the most advanced technology in health care and provide the widest choice of care across all of the Blue Cross plans in the United States,” Blue Cross Chief Executive Andrew Kocher said in a statement.
The announcement comes as the U.S. is grappling with its deadliest year on record.
More than 10,700 people have been killed by the virus, and the total number of Americans infected with the virus has jumped more than 3 million since the start of the year.
The health insurance industry is struggling with the high costs of covering high-risk patients.
More people are likely to get sicker and more expensive.
In February, Blue Cross said it was looking to sell its Blue Shield brand.