Healthcare provider groups have been clear in their view that the pending health insurance mega-mergers will ultimately harm hospitals, physicians and by extension, consumers. But now a group representing consumers themselves has joined the movement to oppose the deals.
The group, called the Coalition to Protect Patient Choice (CPPC), is composed of advocacy groups including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action and New York public employee labor unions.
The CPPC plans to put a spotlight on the "tsunami of mergers and anticompetitive conduct" in the healthcare industry, starting with the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna deals, Ken McEldowney of Consumer Action said in a statement. Though he also added: "We plan to go on to look at other areas where consumers are paying more for less choice."
In its effort to advocate against the mergers, the CPPC launched a website that includes features such as links to past government rulings on insurer deals and related studies, a map that shows which states will "experience the greatest health insurance challenges" if the mergers are approved, and various fact sheets.
The coalition ultimately believes that regulators should challenge the deals, saying that otherwise patient choice will suffer. That's also the view of the American Medical Association, which this week followed in the American Hospital Association's footsteps and sent a letter to U.S. Assistant Attorney General William Baer outlining its argument against the mergers. Both organizations have also voiced their opposition to the deals in testimony at congressional hearings.
The merging insurers, however, have been steadfast in their arguments that the deals won't burden consumers or reduce competition.
"We believe the combination of Aetna and Humana will improve the healthcare system and offer consumers more choices and greater access to higher quality, more affordable care," Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthPayer. "We are confident that our transaction will receive a fair, thorough and fact-based review from the Department of Justice and the states."
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