Commissioner Urges DOJ to Block Anthem/Cigna Merger

CIGNA-AnthemMerger

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is urging the Dept. of Justice to block the merger of Anthem and Cigna. The merger, which is estimated to be worth more than $50 billion, would make Anthem the nation’s largest health insurer. Anthem’s market share would exceed 50% in 28 California counties and 40% in 38 counties. Jones said that the merger would reduce access to quality care, and reduce health insurance affordability. Under California law, the commissioner does not have direct approval authority over the Anthem and Cigna merger since Cigna is domiciled in Connecticut.

At a public hearing on March 29, Anthem executives claimed that the merger would result in $2 billion in savings. But Jones said that Anthem provided only vague and speculative assertions when asked to back up that claim. At the hearing, Anthem would not commit to pass any savings onto consumers through lower prices.

Jones said, “More competition in California’s consolidated health insurance markets is needed, not less. Competition helps restrain prices, provides choice, and improves quality. The Anthem and Cigna merger reduces competition in a market that is already dominated by just four health insurers. It will likely result in reducing consumers’ choices, increased prices, and lower quality care,” he said. Jones provided the following statistics about California in 2014:

  • The four largest insurers controlled 85% of the market.
  • Four insurers controlled 82% of the large group market statewide.
  • Four insurers controlled 88% of the small group market.
  • Four insurers controlled 93% of the individual market.
  • In Covered California, the four largest plans controlled 95% of the individual market in 2014 and 91% of the market in 2015.

Reactions to Anthem/Cigna Merger

Anthem and Cigna have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Anthem will acquire all outstanding shares of Cigna in a cash and stock transaction. The Anthem board of directors will be expanded to 14 members. David Cordani and four independent directors from Cigna’s current board of directors will join the nine

Joseph Swedish, president and CEO of Anthem said, “The Cigna team has built a set of capabilities that greatly complement our own offerings and the combined company will have a competitive presence across commercial, government, international and specialty segments. “The complementary nature of our businesses will allow us to leverage the deep global health care knowledge, local market talent, and expertise of both organizations to ensure that consumers have access to affordable and personalized solutions across diverse life and health stages and position us for sustained success,” said David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2016, pending state regulatory approvals.  Anthem is confident in its ability to obtain all necessary regulatory and other approvals.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, “California’s health insurance market already suffers from consolidation with the four largest health insurers in the individual market controlling more than 85% of the market. Further consolidation will result in even less competition among health insurers and will leave consumers and employers with fewer choices and the potential for greater premium increases. Studies of prior mergers of health insurers found that health insurance prices increased as a result of mergers. “Health insurers are enjoying record share values and profits, which are paid for by consumers and employers. There is no requirement that any savings from these mergers be passed along to consumers or employers. In California, there is no authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases, unlike 35 other states. We will review the mergers based on what is best for California consumers and employers. We will also work closely with other state and federal regulators,” he added.

Steven Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association said, “The lack of a competitive health insurance market allows the few remaining companies to exploit their market power, dictate premium increases, and pursue corporate policies that are contrary to patient interests. Health insurers have been unable to demonstrate that mergers create efficiency and lower health insurance premiums…The U.S. Department of Justice has recognized that patient interests can be harmed when a big insurer has a stranglehold on a local market. Federal and state regulators must take a hard look at proposed health insurer mergers. Antitrust laws that prohibit harmful mergers must be enforced and anti-competitive conduct by insurers must be stopped.” “Based on federal guidelines, the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger would be presumed to be anticompetitive in the commercial, combined (HMO+PPO+POS) markets in nine of the 14 states (NH, ME, IN, CT, VA, CO, GA, NV, KY) in which Anthem is licensed to provide coverage,” he added.

An AMA study of the 2008 merger involving UnitedHealth Group and Sierra Health Services found that premiums increased after the merger by almost 14% compared to a control group. The study reveals a serious decline in competition among health insurers with nearly three out of four metropolitan areas rated as highly concentrated. In fact, 41% of metropolitan areas had a single health insurer with a commercial market share of 50% or more.

Last Updated 05/25/2022

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