- A judge in the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia struck down a proposed $37 billion merger between healthcare insurance providers Aetna and Humana on Monday, the New York Times reports.
- Judge John D. Bates' ruling cited potential antitrust law violations, siding with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). According to the Times, Bates argued the deal would have decreased competition for both Medicare Advantage plans and plans on public exchanges. He disagreed with the companies' assertion that regulation would prevent the Aetna-Humana combined firm form "raising prices or reducing benefits."
- An Aetna spokesperson told the Times that the company is considering an appeal. The ruling comes just six months after the DOJ sued over a similar, but separate, merger between industry competitors Cigna and Anthem.
Healthcare industry observers weren't immediately surprised by the ruling; federal agencies had been exchanging 'pleasantries' with Aetna officials for months, fanning the flames over an already hot-button issue given the Obama administration's commitment to regulation of the health insurance sector.
HR professionals, on the other hand, might wonder what such legal troubles mean for their employees. Previously, it was speculated by some parties that employees would save as a result of the merger due to increased efficiency and the growth of public health exchanges.
Of course, this point has become a bit muddied given that we still don't know what will happen to the ACA. GOP members in Congress have not agreed to a set of proposals at the time of this writing, so the fates of current healthcare exchanges are not yet known.