American Medical Association warns DOJ not to settle case against Anthem-Cigna deal

The American Medical Association is sounding the alarm about the possibility of “politically driven settlement negotiations” between Anthem and the Justice Department that would result in the insurer closing its deal with Cigna.

In a letter sent to Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder, AMA CEO James Madara, M.D., urged the DOJ and states that sued to block the Anthem-Cigna merger to reject any offers to settle the case.

A federal judge blocked the deal in early February, and Anthem has been granted an expedited appeal of that ruling. However, it is fighting a separate court battle with Cigna, which sued to end the merger agreement and collect damages. Anthem them countersued, and the Delaware Court of Chancery has since approved its motion to temporarily stop Cigna from exiting the contract.   

It is Anthem’s response to Cigna’s suit that alarmed the AMA, as the insurer said that it is “committed to completing this value-creating merger either through a successful appeal or through settlement with the new leadership at the Department of Justice.”

In fact, one of the contenders to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division under the Trump administration is none other than Makan Delrahim, who previously lobbied Congress on antitrust issues on behalf of Anthem starting in July 2015, Bloomberg Law reported. Delrahim deregistered as a lobbyist for the insurer in December.

Madara’s letter also noted that an Anthem attorney said in open court that the company believes a “supportive” Vice President Mike Pence enhances the deal’s chances of closing.

“We strongly believe that political influence should play no role in the enforcement of the antitrust laws and urge you to vigorously defend Judge Jackson’s ruling,” Madara wrote to Snyder.

Blocking the proposed deal completely, he added, “is the only way to adequately protect patients and physicians from the anticompetitive effects of an Anthem-Cigna merger.”