RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — The State Health Plan has rejected protest appeals for the Third-Party Administrative Services contract from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and UMR Inc., according to State Treasurer Dale Folwell.

BCBS and UMR Inc. made the appeals after Aetna was awarded the contract earlier this month. BCBS had held the contract for more than 40 years. Aetna will begin its services in 2025.

After finding that the assertions made by both losing bidders were without merit, the State Health Plan’s Interim Executive Director Sam Watts notified both bidders that their appeals had been rejected.

This concludes the protest process, and the plan is moving forward under the new contract with Aetna, Folwell said in a news release.

The plan, which sits within Treasurer Dale Folwell’s department, covers more than 740,000 people, with expenses paid for by state funds and member premiums. The contract oversees health care spending of more than $17.5 billion over five years, the news release said. Blue Cross doesn’t perform administrative services for the roughly 185,000 retirees who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, however. 

Blue Cross takes in several million dollars per month as part of the contract, according to the health plan. Folwell and the plan said in a news release that the Aetna contract could result in $140 million in cost savings should it extend to five years. 

Blue Cross NC released a statement Friday about the rejection of its appeal:

Blue Cross NC believes that its bid to the State Health Plan serves the best interests of the Plan’s members. The Plan’s response to Blue Cross NC’s protest leaves too many unanswered questions about how this change will affect costs and access to care for state employees and teachers. We are disappointed that the Plan has refused to disclose any documents about its RFP process, despite our public records requests a month ago. Blue Cross NC will continue to pursue efforts to ensure the best outcome for teachers, state employees and North Carolina taxpayers.