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Pull reins on Aetna and Anthem deals, nine groups urge state


A coalition of Consumers Union and eight other groups are urging Florida regulators to think twice about approving big health mergers they say will reduce competition and consumer choice and could lead to higher premiums across the state.

“Many of the most important consumer groups, health care providers, and unions are speaking in a single voice raising the profound concerns raised by these mergers,” said David A. Balto, former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission and the public interest antitrust attorney representing the groups. “They document how history demonstrates consumers lose when insurers get bigger by paying higher premiums, suffering through more limited networks, and receiving worse service.”

Besides Consumers Union, the organizations joining the effort include Florida CHAIN, Florida Rural Health Association, U.S. PIRG, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Consumer Watchdog, Florida Policy Institute, Consumer Action and Florida PIRG.

The letter came shortly before a Thursday deadline for public comment on the proposed Aetna-Humana merger. The deadline is today for Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna and affiliates.

The review by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is one of several at the state and federal levels scheduled to be completed in coming months.

Aetna and Humana representatives said at a Dec. 7 hearing they expect to save $1.25 billion by 2018 through their proposed merger, and their combined expertise will help them serve customers better. The deal would capitalize on “complementary” strengths in different areas of business, they argued.

Simply rubber-stamping the deals will result in too much concentration of market power, the comment letter from the nine groups says.

For example, blessing the proposed wedding of Aetna and Humana would give them over half of all Medicare Advantage enrollees in five Florida counties including Palm Beach and Broward, the letter said.



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