Doctors' group: Healthcare mergers not in patients' 'best interests'

Doctors' group: Healthcare mergers not in patients' 'best interests'
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The American Medical Association (AMA) is sounding the alarm about the proposed consolidations of four of the country’s largest health insurance giants.

The influential doctor’s group released a 12-page analysis Tuesday, warning the proposed Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers would lead to an “unprecedented lack of competition” in the market.

Aetna, Humana, Cigna and Anthem are four of the nation’s five biggest health insurers, a club that also includes UnitedHealth. That number would drop to three if the mergers are approved.

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Each of the five companies have been eying the others for months, exploring potential takeover bids as they navigate the new rules and markets under the Affordable Care Act.

“A lack of competition in health insurer markets is not in the best interests of patients or physicians,” AMA President Steven J. Stack wrote in a statement.

The analysis predicts that competition would decrease competition in as many as 154 cities within 23 states, according to the most recent insurance enrollment data, which is from 2013.

Already, seven in 10 cities experience a “significant absence” of competition and 46 states have two insurers with at least a 50 percent share of the market, the report states.

“Merger mania” among the largest healthcare companies has prompted concerns of a lack of competition among some in the healthcare industry, as well as Republicans in Congress, who blame the consolidation on ObamaCare.

But the impact of the mergers remains in question. Others, such as Dan Mendelson, CEO of the consulting firm Avalere Health, say they don’t believe consolidation will hurt customers.

The deals are currently being vetted by the Department of Justice, which must greenlight the mergers before they are finalized.