U.S. Opposes Anthem Push for a Quick Trial in Cigna Merger Caseby
Justice Department claims $48 billion tie-up hurts competition
Insurer seeks accelerated court handling of antitrust suit
Anthem Inc. is pushing for a speedy decision on the government’s bid to block the health insurer’s planned $48 billion merger with rival Cigna Corp. The government doesn’t want that, and on Wednesday its lawyers told a federal judge the case is too complex to rush a ruling.
Justice Department lawyers told U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington that the antitrust case they filed last week is far more complicated than a coal company lawsuit that Anthem attorneys cited on Monday as an example of what could be done.
Anthem’s attorneys asked the judge to consider scheduling a trial in only 88 days with a decision on the government’s bid for an injunction coming within 35 days of its conclusion.
“This case challenges the largest merger ever proposed in the health care industry,” requiring more pre-trial time than Anthem’s suggested schedule would allow, the government said in court papers filed Thursday. Citing the companies’ targeted April 30 deadline to complete the deal, the government’s attorneys said, “They are free to extend it.”
The U.S. sued to stop the Anthem-Cigna combination as well as Aetna Inc.’s $37 billion bid for Humana Inc., saying those deals would reduce the number of major American health insurance companies from five to three, resulting in increased costs and reduced competition.
Anthem, the only company which has filed an answer to those allegations, contends its merger would extend coverage to more people and boost consumer access to insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.
The cases are U.S. v. Anthem Inc., 16-cv-1493, and U.S. v. Aetna Inc., 16-cv-1494, .S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).