AMA denounces insurance mergers

The American Medical Association issued a statement Friday reporting the negative consequences of large health insurance mergers and calling on federal and state regulators to more closely examine recently proposed mergers.

This week, Anthem announced an agreement to buy Cigna for $54.2 billion and Aetna announced earlier this month it plans to acquire Humana for $37 billion.

"The lack of a competitive health insurance market allows the few remaining companies to exploit their market power, dictate premium increases and pursue corporate policies that are contrary to patient interests," Steven J. Stack, MD, president of the AMA, said in the statement. "Health insurers have been unable to demonstrate that mergers create efficiency and lower health insurance premiums."

The statement cites an AMA study of the 2008 merger between UnitedHealth Group and Sierra Health Services that shows premiums jumped 14 percent after the merger. The AMA also points to an analysis that shows the Anthem-Cigna merger would be anticompetitive in the commercial, combined markets — which include HMO, PPO and POS plans — in nine out of 14 states, based on federal regulations.

"To give commercial health insurers virtually unlimited power to exert control over an issue as significant and sensitive as patient healthcare is bad for patients and not good for the nation's healthcare system. The U.S. Department of Justice has recognized that patient interests can be harmed when a big insurer has a stranglehold on a local market," the statement reads.


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