The nation?s powerful hospital lobby, the American Hospital Association, urged the U.S. Justice Department to closely scrutinize the proposed $37 billion acquisition by Aetna (AET) of Humana (HUM), saying it threatens competition in the business of providing health benefits to seniors in the growing privately run portion of the Medicare program.
Specifically, the AHA, which represents some 5,000 U.S. hospitals, says the combination of the two health insurance giants would give a larger Aetna too much power to potentially raise prices and end choices for seniors who buy Medicare Advantage plans, which contract with the government to provide traditional Medicare coverage plus extras that include wellness care, preventive screenings and prescription drugs.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has soared in recent years and hospitals fear insurers with too much control in this growing market.
?The deal will not just eliminate current competition between Humana and Aetna, it will eliminate future competition between them,? Melinda Hatton, senior vice president and general counsel at the AHA said in her letter this week to Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Baer in the Justice Department?s antitrust division and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. ?Humana is the second largest insurer of Medicare Advantage lives in the country. Aetna is the fourth largest.?
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