- California insurance commissioner Dave Jones told Aetna and Humana he has doubts over their planned merger. California Healthline reported.
- While Jones, who is eyeing a race for state attorney general in 2018, can’t block the deal, he shared his concerns with the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, which do have that power.
- Aetna announced it’s plan to acquire Humana for $37 billion last summer.
Jones said he was “skeptical in light of past studies” that suggest consumers often get the short end of the stick when insurers merge. His comments were joined by testimony from opponents and proponents of the proposed merger. Those opposing the merger testified it would raise costs and cut access, especially for the chronically ill, according to California Healthline.
The two carriers maintain the merger will reduce costs, expand access and improve overall care quality. Representatives of Aetna and Humana told the commission the merger would save $1.25 billion in 2018, though it wasn’t clear if those savings would be passed on to members.
Aetna angered California’s Department of Managed Health Care last year when it raised the premiums on small businesses by 21% — the fourth rate hike in the state since 2013 state regulators found to be "unreasonable."
Fran Soistman, executive vice president and head of Aetna’s Medicare and Medicaid business, told the hearing the company is “making every effort to offer a range of plans that would allow our small group customers to select an option that best meets their needs.”
Aetna insures about 18,000 people in California, while Humana covers more than 60,000 Medicare Advantage customers in nearly two dozen counties. Together, their footprint would still be less than 2% of the state’s Medicare beneficiaries, Aetna said.