Aetna-Humana merger blocked by US District Judge

The New York Times (1/23, Picker, Abelson, Subscription Publication) reports Judge John D. Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia has blocked the proposed $37 billion merger of insurers Aetna and Humana. Bates said in his ruling that he “mostly agrees” with the argument made by the US Department of Justice that the merger would lessen competition in the health insurance market.

The Wall Street Journal (1/23, A1, Kendall, Mathews, Subscription Publication) reports Bates said the merger would specifically harm competition in the markets for Medicare Advantage plans as well as individual plans sold on exchanges.

The Washington Post (1/23, Johnson) reports the companies’ merger agreement is currently scheduled to expire on February 15, but has already been extended twice.

The Hill (1/23, Sullivan) reports that in a statement, the AMA said, “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.”

More on this topic from AMA Wire…

“… This caps 18 months of physician advocacy opposing the merger, during which time a coalition of medical societies provided state attorneys general and the Department of Justice with compelling evidence to challenge the merger in court. Read more at AMA Wire®.”