Murphy urges Aetna, Cigna to stay, doesn’t oppose mergers

Sen. Chris Murphy

Sen. Chris Murphy

With decisions from the Justice Department pending on two potential mergers involving Aetna and Cigna, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., sent a pair of letters Monday urging both companies to maintain a “strong presence” in Connecticut regardless of the outcome. He did not oppose the mergers.

“I trust the Department of Justice to review the merits of the proposed mergers and come out with a ruling that is fact-based and fair,” Murphy said in a statement. “And while I leave to the experts judgment on the merits of the mergers, I understand why Aetna and Cigna believe the mergers are beneficial to their businesses.”

Aetna is in the process of acquiring Louisville-based Humana in a $34 billion deal, while Indianapolis-based Anthem has a deal to acquire Cigna for $48 billion. Both mergers are awaiting approval from the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and a variety of state regulators.

Murphy’s statement comes two and a half weeks after U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announced his opposition to the proposed mergers.

Blumenthal and six other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, saying the proposed mergers would have a “detrimental impact” on “premium prices, jobs and health care costs for consumers and businesses.”

Murphy did not address those concerns in his statement. Instead, he said, mergers are a part of the pursuit of “greater scale and efficiencies” in the health care industry.

With the possibility that Aetna and Cigna’s headquarters could both move out of the state, Murphy expressed a “strong desire” for each “to remain a Connecticut company” in his letters. Aetna has not committed to keeping its corporate headquarters in Hartford if the merger is approved.

The language in the letters is similar, but Murphy strikes a particularly earnest tone in his letter to Aetna, saying it has a “unique place in Connecticut’s business community.”

“Connecticut, and in particular the metro Hartford area, has been defined by its association with your industry generally, and your company specifically,” Murphy wrote. “Aetna is part of the historical fabric of Connecticut.”

Murphy’s letter to Cigna emphasizes its philanthropic contributions to the state.

He also praised Aetna for advocating strategies to care for higher-cost Medicare patients and Cigna for efforts to curb the opioid crisis.

Both proposed mergers face serious antitrust concerns. The Anthem-Cigna deal would combine the second- and fourth-largest health insurance companies, while the Aetna-Humana deal would combine the third- and fifth-largest.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Aetna and Humana officials met with the Justice Department on Friday to make their case for the merger, fighting what the newspaper characterized as an “uphill battle.” The insurers reportedly told the Justice Department they had a plan to divest assets to meet antitrust concerns.

A merger of Aetna and Humana would make the combined company the nation’s largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans.

The journal has previously reported that the Justice Department has told Anthem and Cigna their proposed merger raises antitrust concerns and the department was skeptical they could be addressed through concessions.

The Justice Department cannot block the mergers outright, but could attempt to do so by filing suit in court.

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