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Megan McArdle

No Wonder Insurers Want to Merge

Hospital chains have turned into Godzilla. Where is Mothra to battle them?
Who will save the consumer?

Who will save the consumer?

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Health care consolidation is not a sexy issue. It's not the sort of thing you want to bring up at a dinner party, unless you've already completely exhausted proposed changes to the local noise ordinances, the weather, and the best way to get from LA to Newport Beach without enduring the 405. And yet, this is a topic you ought to pay attention to, because the mergers creating mega-insurers and mega-providers are going to have a big impact on your life in the near future.

Why do I bring this up now, when we've hardly begun to plumb the possibilities inherent in taking Route 1 to the 710? Well, because Anthem is inking a deal to buy Cigna for $48 billion. As my Bloomberg colleagues noted yesterday, "An acquisition would add to a wave of consolidation sweeping over the health-insurance industry." This, coming close on the heels of an Aetna merger, is of some concern to antitrust people, according to the Wall Street Journal: "Antitrust regulators are expected to closely examine the implications of the two tandem deals and a third, smaller transaction announced earlier this month."