Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurers' Plan Draws New Alert Anthem-Cigna Merger Could Affect Markets

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurers' Plan Draws New Alert Anthem-Cigna Merger Could Affect Markets

Article excerpt

Pennsylvanians could face higher costs for medical care if Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. merge into the nation's largest health insurer, a statewide hospital group warned Monday.

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania echoed worries from the American Hospital Association, the industry's largest lobbying group, which pressed regulators last week to scrutinize whether the deal would inflate health care costs and inhibit competition across the country.

Although the insurers control less than 5 percent of the Pennsylvania health insurance market, their proposed deal could trigger additional mergers that may hamper health care access and affordability in the state, said Jeffrey Bechtel, a senior vice president at the Harrisburg-based organization.

Merging "some of the country's largest national health insurers may create a domino effect, spurring additional health insurer consolidations, which could have a future negative impact on the Pennsylvania marketplace," Mr. Bechtel said in a statement. The organization represents the interests of Pennsylvania's 164 general acute care hospitals and other health facilities.

Indianapolis-based Anthem said its top priority is "the best health coverage possible," vowing in a statement that affordable policies and quality care are "the foundation of the proposed transaction."

Cigna of Bloomfield, Conn., and the Department of Justice, which is reviewing the plan, did not comment.

At America's Health Insurance Plans, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, executive vice president Beth Leonard blamed "years of anticompetitive hospital consolidation" for steeper health care costs.

Anthem announced July 24 that it would buy rival Cigna for about $54.2 billion, a combination that would cover about 17 percent of the U.S. population - more than 53 million people. …

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