UPDATE: AMA Sends Letter to Assistant AG Baer Outlining 'Strong Opposition' to Aetna/Humana, Anthem/Cigna Deals
Below is a summary of several highlights:
- The proposed mergers are occurring in markets where there has already been a near total collapse of competition. Under the U.S. Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission Merger Guidelines, the proposed mergers are presumed to enhance market power in a vast number of commercial and Medicare Advantage markets. Because of persisting high barriers to entry in health insurance markets, the lost competition through
these proposed mergers would likely be permanent and the acquired health insurer market power would be durable.
- A growing body of peer-reviewed literature suggests that greater health insurer consolidation leads to price increases, as opposed to greater efficiency or lower health care costs. The proposed mergers can be expected to lead to a reduction in health plan quality. Insurers are already creating very narrow and restricted networks that force patients to go out of network to access care. The mergers would reduce pressures on plans to offer broader networks to compete for members and would create fewer networks that are simultaneously under no competitive pressure to respond to patients' access needs.
- Health insurer monopsony, or buyer power, acquired through the proposed mergers would, as the Department of Justice has found in earlier cases, likely degrade the quality and reduce the quantity of physician services. Consumers do best when there is a competitive market for purchasing physician services. When mergers result in monopsony power and physicians are reimbursed at below competitive levels, consumers
may be harmed in a variety of ways. Physicians may be forced to spend less time with patients to meet practice expenses. They also may be hindered in their ability to invest in new equipment, technology, training, staff, and other practice infrastructure that could improve the access to and quality of patient care and could enable physicians to successfully transition into new value-based payment and delivery models. Furthermore, in the long run health insurer exercise of monopsony power may motivate physicians to retire early or seek opportunities outside of medicine that are more rewarding. This would exacerbate an already significant shortage of primary care physicians in the United States.
- There is no evidence supporting the insurer's claim that the proposed mergers would lead to greater efficiencies and innovative payment and care management programs. There is also no economic evidence that consumers benefit when health insurers merge to respond to hospital consolidation by acquiring countervailing power.
- Fostering competition, not consolidation, benefits American consumers through lower prices, better quality, and greater choice.
- Accordingly, the AMA urges the Department of Justice to block the proposed mergers.
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