Antitrust trial over $37B Aetna-Humana merger nearing an end

Dive Brief:

  • Final arguments were delivered on Friday before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in the lawsuit over Aetna’s attempt to acquire Humana, Bloomberg reports.

  • A key point in the case is whether Medicare is a distinct market from Medicare Advantage.

  • Federal prosecutors argued that the two markets are separate and that the merger would allow Aetna to raise premiums on Medicare Advantage plans, but Aetna lawyers say consumers can switch freely between the two programs.

Dive Insight:

A decision on the $37 billion merger between Aetna and Humana will be made soon. The payers and the federal government have been an engaged in a legal standoff since the U.S. Department of Justice and several states filed an antitrust lawsuit in July 2016 to block the merger, citing reduced competition, hindered innovation, and increased prices to consumers. The federal government also alleges the deal would give Aetna too much of a stake in the Medicare Advantage market.

Representatives for both Aetna and the federal government have been exchanging barbs for the past several months. The government accused Aetna of scaling back its participation in ACA marketplaces as a result of the lawsuit. Aetna claimed that these accusations were unfounded and said the deal would be a pro-competitive move that would benefit millions.

Health insurance giant Anthem has also proposed a $54 billion merger with Cigna. If both mergers occur, it would combine four of the five largest insurers in the country.

There is no timeline set for a decision in the case. Yet Judge Bates said he would issue his decision in a “timely manner,” according to Bloomberg.

Filed Under: Payer Health Law
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