Judge blocks giant health insurance merger

Judge blocks giant health insurance merger
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A federal judge on Monday blocked the merger of two of the largest health insurers in the country on antitrust grounds.

Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the merger of Aetna and Humana would unacceptably cut down competition in Medicare Advantage and in the ObamaCare marketplaces.

“The government alleged that the merger of Aetna and Humana would be likely to substantially lessen competition in markets for individual Medicare Advantage plans and health insurance sold on the public exchanges,” Bates wrote in his decision. “After a 13-day trial, and based on careful consideration of the law, evidence, and arguments, the Court mostly agrees.”

Aetna quickly said it was weighing an appeal.

"We're reviewing the opinion now and giving serious consideration to an appeal after putting forward a compelling case," said Aetna spokesman TJ Crawford.

The ruling is a victory for consumer advocates who had opposed the merger as reducing competition and choices for consumers. 

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A challenge to the merger of another two large health insurers, Anthem and Cigna, is still ongoing.

“Elderly patients were the big winners today as a federal court imposed an injunction on Aetna’s $37 billion acquisition of Humana,” the American Medical Association, which opposed the merger, said in a statement.

“The court ruling halts Aetna’s bid to become the nation’s largest seller of Medicare Advantage plans and preserves the benefits of health insurer competition for a vulnerable population of seniors.”