U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal
(D-CT) distilled the main points of his letter to
the Department of Justice (DOJ) addressing concerns about the proposed
Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers at a press conference today.
Co-authored by Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), the letter addressed general concerns for why the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers could threaten jobs, increase premiums and decrease access to quality health care.
Blumenthal stressed during his press conference that these insurance mergers could potentially have far-reaching negative effects on not only the state of Connecticut, but also the United States as a whole.
“This letter is the result of very extensive consideration,” Blumenthal recently told Patient Daily. “We relied solely on factual information and anti-trust laws.”
Blumenthal further explained that not all mergers are bad and companies have the right to try to merge, but it is the responsibility of the DOJ to make sure these companies follow the law.
“These mammoth mergers are something anti-consumer laws forbid,” he said. “I told the (merging insurance) companies I would support steps to help them succeed and expand in Connecticut.”
Blumenthal stressed that he would support insurance companies with regards to being thriving competitors rather than merging to “foreclose” competition.
“We are asking the DOJ to block these mergers because the anti-competitive effects are severe,” he said. “It will kill Connecticut jobs, and create higher premiums for consumers and businesses.”
Although Blumenthal could not speak for the other Senators
who contributed to the letter, the letter written to the DOJ was clear about
their stance on these insurance mergers.
“We are deeply concerned by the detrimental impact that both of these mergers would have on premium prices, jobs, and health care costs for consumers and businesses,” the Senators wrote. “In addition to the antitrust legal standard, a critical point to note is the harmful impact these mergers could have on job cuts, wage stagnation, higher health care prices, and the nation’s overall economy.”
Blumenthal said that effects on jobs would be severely hampered. He offered example of previous insurance mergers, such as the merger between Prudential and Aetna, and how such mergers lost up to 800 jobs in Connecticut, while health care costs rose by 7 percent.
These rises in costs have Blumenthal concerned for the state and the country.
“Families facing higher premiums may similarly be harder pressed to spend household income in their local economies,” he said.
Blumenthal and his constituents are confident that allowing competition in the insurance industry is the best solution.
“Vigorous competition in any market yields the best products for consumers at the lowest price,” the letter said. “Yet, these mergers would occur against a landscape of a health insurance industry that is already highly concentrated.”
Blumenthal said that the next step requires a decision from the DOJ. He explained that there is not a definitive time frame on when it will make its decision, but he will respect the decision. He is hoping the DOJ will support the anti-trust statutes upheld by the United States and make the right decision accordingly.