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Payer mega-mergers on the fritz: Justice Department could file blocking suit — 5 highlights

Justice Department antitrust officials are likely to file lawsuits to stop the pending Anthem/Cigna and Aetna/Humana mega-mergers, according to sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports.

Here are five highlights:

1. The Justice Department may file suits as early as this week out of concern the mergers will limit competition in the payer marketplaces, thereby drastically raising prices for consumers, according to the report. The Justice Department did not comment on the matter.

2. All the payers' shares fell since the news broke, with Humana suffering the biggest drop of 3.9 percent. Cigna shares fell 2.1 percent while Anthem shares deceased 2.2 percent. Aetna stock dropped 2.7 percent.

3. All four companies have said they would fight any government lawsuits in court, which would require months of litigation. A Leerink Partners analyst does say, however, Aetna and Humana are more likely than their Anthem and Cigna counterpart to fight a lawsuit in court. In recent months, Anthem and Cigna have faced more obstacles gaining state approval for their merger.

4. So far, Aetna and Humana have received 18 of the necessary 20 state-approvals for the deal, with New York's insurance regulator conditionally approving the Aetna-Humana merger earlier this month. Comparatively, Anthem and Cigna have received 10 of the 24 state approvals needed to move forward.  

5. Last month, a Justice Department official told a group of antitrust lawyers the payer mergers would result in "substantial consolidation," and the lawyers therefore should put forth efforts to block the mergers.
 
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