Judge: Only time for one insurer merger case in 2016

A federal judge said Thursday it is unlikely he would be able to rule on both the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna antitrust suits by the end of the year, according to Reuters.

Lawyers from Anthem and Aetna argued this week that Judge John Bates should hear their cases before the end of 2016. The Justice Department filed suits in July against both mergers, citing competition concerns that it says would increase prices for consumers and stunt innovation.

Bates said in a hearing Thursday that both requests cannot be fulfilled, but did not say which case would be sent for reassignment.

“That's my determination: that I can't do both,” Bates said in the hearing, according to Reuters.

Aetna believes it has a simpler case, the article adds. Further, its deal with Humana was announced first.

Anthem’s lawyers, though, point out that if the case is not settled by the end of the year, Cigna will likely refuse to extend their agreement, thus dooming the merger, Reuters notes.

In an interview with FierceHealthPayer, antitrust lawyer David Balto indicated that the Anthem-Cigna merger is “like climbing Mount Everest,” and that they are less poised to battle the DOJ than Aetna and Humana.  

- read the Reuters article