Washington – Opponents of the planned Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna mergers have asked the U.S. Justice Department to block them in a letter that alludes to the controversy over Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade’s lead role in state regulatory approval of one of the deals.
Many of the 43 signers of the letter to Renata B. Hesse, head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, were state medical societies, including the Connecticut State Medical Society.
The Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, several other consumer groups and the United Methodist Church also signed the letter.
“These proposed health insurance company mergers will stifle competition, raise prices and reduce choice for patients in Connecticut and dozens of other states. Given the failure of several state regulators to carefully scrutinize these mega-mergers, it is incumbent on the U.S. Department of Justice to assert its regulatory authority now,” urged Robert W. Seligson, president of the Physicians Advocacy Institute.
The opponents’ letter also said decisions by the states on the merger “are being made in secret, with no public input, even in states where there is anti-competitive overlap. FOIA efforts to get copies of documentation to better understand the rationale for these decisions have been met in multiple states by stonewalling and obfuscation.”
Aetna had no immediate comment on the letter, and Anthem declined to comment.
Merger opponents in Connecticut have criticized the Connecticut Insurance Department for approving the proposed Aetna-Humana merger in January without a hearing or even an announcement.
They have also asked Gov. Dannel Malloy to recuse Wade, a former Cigna lobbyist whose husband still works for the company, from review of the Anthem-Cigna merger. Since Cigna is headquartered in Connecticut, Wade is the lead state regulator of that merger, which is under review by 28 states as well as the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.
Malloy has declined to take Wade off the case, saying the state ethics office cleared her of any conflict, but he has said he will reconsider if that guidance changes. The state Citizens Ethics Advisory Board has granted a petition by Common Cause Connecticut to investigate Wade’s status and decide whether she must recuse herself.
Last week, seven Democratic U.S. senators, including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, wrote Hesse also asking the DOJ to block the mergers. Blumenthal said Wednesday he believes a DOJ decision on the mergers “is pretty imminent.”
“We actually thought it might be before the end of June,” he said.