Aetna, Humana extend merger deadline again

Witness stand in courtroom
Aetna and Humana's antitrust trial wrapped up Wednesday, with the presiding judge grilling lawyers from both sides. (Getty/aerogondo)

With the antitrust suit against their deal not yet settled, Aetna and Humana have once again extended their merger deadline.

The two insurers pushed the deadline back to Feb. 15, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Previously, they had extended the deadline to Dec. 31.

Their trial wrapped up Wednesday, with the presiding judge grilling lawyers from Aetna and the Justice Department, according to the Hartford Courant. Lawyers from both sides will return to court Dec. 30 to make brief final arguments before the judge, who is expected to make a decision mid-January.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, DOJ attorney Eric Mahr challenged Aetna and Humana’s plan to divest MA assets to Molina, saying the company has already failed twice in its attempts to enter the Medicare Advantage market.

RELATED: DOJ grills Molina exec during Aetna-Humana trial

Mahr also reiterated the government’s argument that Aetna chose to exit certain Affordable Care Act exchange markets because the DOJ had highlighted them as ones where the deal with Humana would harm competition, the article says.

But Aetna attorney John Majoras argued that there will be excellent competition in the markets where the insurers plan to divest their MA assets. He also assured the judge that Aetna chose to exit exchange markets for business reasons only, noting that it was “hemorrhaging money.”

Both lawyers also made their case on the issue of whether Medicare Advantage competes with traditional Medicare, with Majoras saying the two do compete but Mahr noting that few seniors switch between the two, the article adds.

Another antitrust case being tried in federal court—concerning the deal between Anthem and Cigna—is now in its second phase, with expert witnesses testifying Tuesday about how the acquisition would affect local markets. That trial has been extended into next year, according to the Courant.