The US Department of Justice may have filed a lawsuit halting two health insurance mega-mergers, but the companies behind the proposed acquisitions are not raising the white flag of surrender quite yet.
Aetna Inc. issued a lengthy and strongly-worded statement this week, promising to “vigorously defend” its merger with rival Humana against DOJ allegations that it would significantly reduce competition, particularly in the Medicare Advantage market.
“A combined company will result in a broader choice of products, access to higher quality and more affordable care, and a better overall experience for consumers,” Aetna said.
It pointed out that far from being in danger of a noncompetitive market, 91% of Medicare Advantage participants can choose from at least five carriers. The company also argued that the broader Medicare market is still occupied by the traditional, government-run program.
Aetna Chief Executive Mark Bertolini is so confident of the insurer’s success, he told the New York Times,
“I like my chances in front of a judge.”
The Aetna-Humana cause has also been backed by some states, including Kentucky, whose attorney general says he will not join the suit against the $37 billion deal.
Anthem also responded to allegations against its proposed acquisition of Cigna Corp., but used less heated rhetoric. The carrier simply said the merger would create “efficiencies” that allow it to deliver better, more affordable products to consumers. It also indicated it would be willing to divest itself of some of its assets, although the DOJ has said any such actions are not likely to save the proposed transaction.
In its lawsuit filed to block the mergers, the Justice Department claims the deals violate antitrust laws and would harm competition and affordability for consumers.
“Competition would be substantially reduced for hundreds of thousands of families and individuals who buy insurance on the public exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act,” said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Legal battles over the mergers are likely to take some time, and the involved companies are continuing to run business as usual. Earlier this week, Cigna announced its plans to enter the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Chicago for the first time, bringing new competition in an area that sorely needs it.
Aetna also has plans to introduce new health products in the next few months and “will work very closely with impacted members so they understand these new products, the choices available to them and their best option,” according to company spokesman Rohan Hutchings.
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