Who's merging? Highmark Inc., of Pittsburgh, and Independence Blue Cross, of Philadelphia

Why are they merging? The companies say the combination will provide $1 billion in "economic benefits" over six years, provide for more efficient investment in information technology, and better position them for expansion.

Will my premium cost less? The companies said yesterday that they would use some of the savings from the merger to make insurance more affordable for the uninsured. They did not commit yesterday to lowering premium costs for people who are currently insured.

What will the new company be called? It doesn't have a name yet.

Where will the headquarters be? The companies will maintain dual headquarters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Who will run the companies? Kenneth R. Melani, now president and chief executive officer of Highmark, will be CEO of the combined company. Joseph A. Frick, now president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, will be president and chief operating officer.

Will the merger save money? The companies say they will be able to hold administrative fees flat for two years, saving $300 million, and better manage prescription drug costs, for savings of $280 million.

How many employees will the combined company have? Eighteen thousand in Pennsylvania.

Will there be layoffs? The companies said that, in Pennsylvania, they would be able to deal with changes in company structure through attrition and reassignment.

When will this happen? The companies plan to start filing paperwork for state and federal approvals in April. The process could take many months.

- Stacey Burling

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