- Justic Department lawyers argued last week against Anthem's request for a quick trial date and decision regarding its hotly contested $48 billion merger with Cigna, Bloomberg reported.
- Anthem had sought to fast-track the trial with a date in just 88 days and a decision within 35 days of its conclusion so the company could meet its targeted April 30, 2017 deadline to complete the acquisition.
- The DOJ lawyers argued in response that the case is too complicated and unprecedented to rush, and it doesn't compare to a coal company lawsuit that Anthem held up as an example of how the case could be handled.
The pushback has the potential to extend any resolution past the April date Anthem was targeting to complete the deal, which could require it and Cigna to extend their agreement. Meanwhile, Anthem has leveraged its weight against the federal government, suggesting its depth of participation in the still struggling ACA marketplace is contingent upon approval of the deal.
The case should not be rushed because it debates "the largest merger ever proposed in the healthcare industry,” the DOJ argued, suggesting that requires more pre-trial preparation time.
The DOJ filed suit against both the Anthem/Cigna and competing Humana/Aetna megamergers in late July, casting increasing doubt on whether either pair can convince antitrust regulators their deal would benefit consumers and that any concerns could be resolved via divestitures in certain markets.
While opponents argue the deals would result in decreased competition and thereby increased costs or consumers, Anthem has suggested that if allowed to merge it will be able to extend its reach to get more people covered under the Affordable Care Act--a potentially tempting proposition for the administration.
If its deal is approved, Anthem said it will increase its ACA participation by an additional nine states, as Polico reported.