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Categorized | Insurance

US health insurance mega-mergers on trial – key dates to watch

Posted on November 21, 2016

Four of the five largest US health insurers are headed to court to try to salvage two mega-mergers from being blocked by federal and state competition authorities, who claim that the deals will stifle innovation and consumer choice.

Opening arguments kicked off in federal court on Monday in a lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice and several states’ attorneys generals seeking to stop Anthem from completing its $48bn purchase of rival Cigna.

In just a few weeks, before a different judge in the same Washington, DC court, attorneys for Aetna and Humana will head to trial to try to save their proposed $37bn tie-up. The insurers say that their deals will help them innovate and reduce costs, while federal and state authorities say that the wave of consolidation will stifle competition to patients’ detriment.

Antitrust officials sued to block the planned deals earlier this year. The closely watched trials come as the US health insurance industry attempts to realign itself after sustaining heavy losses on plans offered through the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health-insurance reform legislation whose fate now hangs in the balance as Republicans prepare to retake the White House.

Here are some key dates to watch:

November 21 – Opening arguments begin in the Anthem/Cigna trial before US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. federal court. She will first hear evidence and testimony on how the proposed deal would affect the overall national health insurance market.

December 2 – Both sides in Anthem/Cigna will submit their proposed findings – intended to underscore trial evidence and testimony they hope will guide the judge in drawing her conclusions – for the first phase of the trial.

December 5 – Trial begins for the Aetna/Humana merger before US District Judge John Bates in Washington, DC. The Anthem/Cigna trial will take the week off.

December 12 – Testimony resumes in Anthem/Cigna, in a second phase that is expected to focus on the deal’s implications for local commercial markets and healthcare rates.

December 29 – Parties in the the Aetna/Humana case are scheduled to submit their proposed findings to the judge.

December 30 – Closing arguments scheduled for the Aetna/Humana trial before Judge Bates. The Anthem/Cigna trial is also scheduled to end by this date.

December 31 – Original closing date for the Aetna/Humana merger; Aetna’s executives said on a recent conference call that they now expect the deal to close sometime in 2017. The company will owe Humana a $1bn termination fee if it does not clear the final hurdles.

January 4 – Parties in the Anthem/Cigna trial will file their proposed findings from the second phase of the trial to Judge Jackson.

January 31 – Original closing deadline for Anthem/Cigna merger. However, the parties have the option to extend that to April 30, 2017. Anthem is on the hook for a $1.85bn termination fee if the deal fails to close.

End of January 2017 – Judge Jackson is expected to issue her ruling on Anthem/Cigna by the end of January, Anthem’s chief executive said on a recent conference call with investors. There is no indication about when Judge Bates will rule on Aetna/Humana, although all of the insurers have argued for a speedy resolution to help part the clouds of uncertainty that the litigation has created.