Payers

Anthem says it will appeal court’s decision on Cigna merger

Anthem said it would not only appeal, but that it would ask for an expedited hearing. Anthem noted that more than 99 percent of shareholders of both companies approved the merger, not that it’s relevant in an antitrust case.

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Anthem is vowing to appeal Wednesday’s ruling by a federal judge that the health insurance giant’s $54 billion takeover of rival Cigna would violate antitrust law.

The Indianapolis-based payer on Thursday broke its silence on the opinion handed down by Washington, D.C.-based U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

Jackson’s ruling was not unexpected, though, given that another judge on the same court determined two weeks earlier that the proposed $37 billion merger between Aetna and Humana also would reduce competition in the health insurance market. If consummated, the two megadeals would leave just three large, national commercial payers, rather than the current five.

In a statement, Anthem said it would not only appeal, but that it would ask for an expedited hearing. Anthem noted that more than 99 percent of shareholders of both companies approved the merger, not that it’s relevant in an antitrust case.

“Anthem is significantly disappointed by the decision as combining Anthem and Cigna would positively impact the health and well-being of millions of Americans — saving them more than $2 billion in medical costs annually,” Anthem Chairman, President and CEO Joseph R. Swedish said in the statement.

He added:

Anthem has been a leader in providing individuals with access to high quality, affordable healthcare. Our decision to acquire Cigna is grounded in our commitment to this goal and to leading our industry during this period of dynamic change. If not overturned, the consequences of the decision are far-reaching and will hurt American consumers by limiting their access to high quality affordable care, slowing the industry’s shift to value based care and improved outcomes for patients, and restricting innovation which is critical to meeting the evolving needs of healthcare consumers. Moving forward, Anthem will continue to work aggressively to complete the transaction while remaining focused on serving as America’s valued health partner, delivering superior health care services to our approximately 40 million members with greater value at less cost.

Why an expedited ruling? According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Anthem would owe Cigna a $1.85 billion termination fee if the deal is not wrapped up by April 30. (The original deadline was Jan. 31, but the filing said the date could be extended “under certain circumstances.” A protracted legal battle with the feds probably qualifies as one of those circumstances.)

It is curious, though, that Swedish would want to push forward, if published reports are accurate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the two payers argued with each other in Jackson’s courtroom during the trial.

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