- Anthem continued to argue that its $54 billion acquisition of Cigna would lead to medical cost savings of about $2.4 billion, which would in turn benefit consumers through lower premiums, during an oral argument in the Court of Appeals on Friday, the Hartford Courant reports.
- However, Anthem's attorney, Christopher Curran, acknowledged the combined company, which would become the largest health insurer in the country if the companies do merge, would cut fees to care providers, according to the report. Curran added Vice President Mike Pence has shown support for the deal.
- The oral argument began the day after watchdog group United to Protect Democracy expressed concerns that officials in the President Donald Trump administration "may have engaged in inappropriate conduct regarding the Anthem-Cigna litigation," a letter it sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz reads. The letter requested that the Office of Inspector General initiate an investigation.
The Court of Appeals ultimately decided more time is needed to make a decision. A timeline was not provided, but Anthem-Cigna have until April 30 to complete the deal. If they fail to meet their contractual deadline, Anthem would have to pay Cigna a $1.85 billion breakup fee. Cigna, however, attempted to terminate the deal last month by filing a lawsuit against Anthem requesting at least $13 billion in damages. Anthem stopped Cigna with the temporary restraining order it was granted. Its motion for a speedy appeal process was also granted last month.
The case was brought on by the DOJ in July 2016 to block the deal. The health insurance giants are now seeking to overturn the court decision made in February that blocked the proposed merger, citing concerns over reduced market competition, increased prices to consumers and hindered innovation efforts.
United to Protect Democracy expressed its doubts with the Trump administration's handling of the Anthem/Cigna-DOJ case on Twitter:
Can Americans be sure Trump won’t pressure @TheJusticeDepartment on behalf of political allies? We want to know: https://t.co/pCpQ5MZZUD— Protect Democracy (@protctdemocracy) March 24, 2017
The watchdog group became aware of recent reports that have raised additional antitrust concerns with Anthem's proposed acquisition, including the expected appointment of former Anthem lobbyist, Makan Delrahim, to head the DOJ's antitrust division. It is calling on the Office of Inspector General "to initiate an investigation to assess whether any improper communications between the White House and the Department (DOJ) have occurred or were attempted, in violation of the Department’s policy and its mission." The evidence it outlined in the letter "suggests that if immediate steps are not taken, further violations could take place that would do grave harm to the American people’s confidence in the Department."
However, the DOJ stated earlier this month it would continue to oppose the merger. Evidence presented in court "showed Anthem had no real plan to achieve" the medical cost savings it claimed the combined company would create, according to the DOJ. These cost savings "are purely aspirational and cannot justify the proposed merger,” the DOJ added.
A tweet from Jimmy Hoover, a courts reporter for Law360, opines the Court of Appeals may be more inclined to support the deal and overturn the court decision that blocked it:
DC Circuit wary of 2nd-guessing judge's findings in Anthem case, but entertained arg's that she "ignored" evidence of Cigna deal's savings.— Jimmy Hoover (@JimmyHooverDC) March 24, 2017