Doc: Insurance company mergers are bad for patients and physicians

Just as airline company consolidation has been bad news for travelers, proposed health insurer mergers that will decrease competition are bad for healthcare, writes Joseph Valenti, M.D., in an opinion piece in Forbes.

Health insurance mergers are all about creating more profits and won’t be good for either physicians or patients, says Valenti, a board member of the Physicians Foundation and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Denton, Texas.

As our nation’s insurance companies continue to gobble each other up, they’re intentionally crushing patients with higher premium prices, increased out-of-pocket costs, reduced benefits for essential services, narrower networks and longer delays for shorter appointments," he writes.

Two proposed mega-insurance mergers would create a dismal future for American healthcare, says Valenti, referring to plans by Aetna to buy Humana and a proposal by Anthem to acquire Cigna. Those companies provide insurance coverage for almost 90 million people.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block those two mergers challenging the pair of deals that would narrow the five largest U.S. health insurers down to three. The antitrust trial against Anthem and Cigna is set to begin in November and the Aetna-Humana trial in December.

In his experience as a practicing physician, Valenti says mergers have led to higher premiums for individuals, families and employers, and lower payments to physicians, he says.

Health insurance companies, he says, select doctors in their networks based on the cost of care--not quality, outcomes or patient satisfaction.

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