Judge blocks Aetna-Humana merger to preserve competition
Last week, U.S. District Judge John Bates blocked the merger, saying it lessens competition and violates federal merger laws. The court also said the merger would affect sales of individual Medicare Advantage plans in 364 counties across the country. Finally, the court said the merger would violate antitrust law in three counties in Florida.
This ruling sets a legal precedent because Medicare Advantage is considered separate from traditional Medicare in the court’s ruling, which is something the American Medical Association (AMA) has been advocating for in Congressional hearings on a federal level as well as in state departments.
The judge’s ruling protects the ability for millions of American seniors to get affordable and accessible health care. In his ruling, Bates said the court was "unpersuaded that the efficiencies generated by the merger will be sufficient to mitigate the anti-competitive effects for consumers."
“Aetna’s strategy to eliminate head-to-head competition with rival Humana posed a clear and present threat to the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care for millions of seniors,” AMA President Dr. Andrew Gurman said. “A spokesman for Aetna reportedly said the company is “giving serious consideration to an appeal.”
Going forward, the AMA is looking to the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger. In this proposed merger, Anthem would become a "buyer with too much buyer power" according to Rich Feinstein, the former director of the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission.