- Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia -- the judge in the lawsuits against the pending multi-billion dollar Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers -- stated on Friday he will hand over the case regarding Anthem's acquisition.
- Anthem's case was reassigned from Judge Bates to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, court filings show.
- Judge Bates will continue to handle the case over the pending Aetna/Humana merger. The move increased the likelihood that the insurance giants will be able to complete their deals by the end of this year, as noted by Bloomberg.
Aetna's case was given priority due to the approaching deadline in its contractual agreement.
The U.S. Justice Department filed lawsuits on July 21 to block Anthem's $53 billion acquisition of Cigna and Aetna's $37 billion purchase of Humana as "related cases" believing they involved common issues.
The court held a joint status conference on Thursday to discuss the parties' viewpoints on the timing of the proceedings and whether they should be addressed together, after which the Anthem-Cigna case was assigned to a new judge.
While all insurers agreed the cases should be tried separately considering they involve different companies, products, geographic markets, and "factual issues," they disagreed about proper timing as Anthem and Aetna continued their push for an "extreme expedition, based in part on the contractual deadlines in their merger agreements," according to Bates.
Both Anthem and Cigna have until April 30, 2017 to consummate the deal or extend their deadline but Anthem is arguing for a decision to be made by the end of this year in order to have four months to acquire the remaining required state approvals. Meanwhile, Aetna and Humana were able to prove that their case is "even more time-sensitive" because their contractual deadline is December 31, 2016.
The government had pushed back against Anthem's and Aetna's requests for trial dates in the fall stating that "more time is necessary to prepare these cases for trial and that defendants' self-imposed deadlines should not drive the timing of the proceedings," and suggested they the trials could begin as soon as mid-February next year.
"Given the complexity and importance of these cases, the court cannot feasibly try and decide both in that timeframe (before the year's end)," Bates wrote on Friday. "Ultimately, it will be fairer to the parties and better for the public if one of the cases is randomly reassigned to another judge in this district, who can give it prompt and full attention while this judge (Bates) does the same with the other."
Bates has yet to set a trial date for the Aetna-Humana case. Jackson is considering this December or January 2017 for Anthem's hearing, according to Modern Healthcare.