A federal district court judge has blocked health insurer Anthem from acquiring Cigna, ruling the megamerger would violate antitrust laws and stifle competition.

The decision comes weeks after another U.S. district court judge barred a merger between health insurance giants Aetna and Humana.

The U.S. Department of Justice praised the latest ruling, calling the decision a victory for patients.

“This merger would have stifled competition, harming consumers by increasing health insurance prices and slowing innovation aimed at lowering the costs of health care,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder said in a statement .

Anthem intends to appeal the decision, said Joseph R. Swedish, Anthem’s chair, president, and chief executive officer.

“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,” Mr. Swedish said in a statement .“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 health care consumers.”

In a statement, a Cigna official said the company intends to carefully review the opinion and evaluate its options in accordance with the merger agreement.

“Cigna remains focused on helping to improve health care by delivering value to our customers and clients and expanding our business around the world,” the statement said.

The DOJ, 11 states, and the District of Columbia sued Anthem and Cigna in July over their proposed $54 billion consolidation in what would have been the largest merger in history.

The DOJ argued the merger would substantially harm competition and negatively impact the entire insurance industry if allowed to proceed. The consolidation would enhance Anthem’s power to profit at the expense of consumers and the doctors and hospitals who provide their medical care, DOJ attorneys said in their complaint.

Anthem and Cigna argued the proposed acquisition was “procompetitive,” and that the merger would result in efficiencies that would directly benefit consumers via greater access to affordable health care. The benefits of the merger outweigh any alleged anticompetitive effects, according to Anthem.

A trial before Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ran from November through January.

Judge Berman’s opinion is temporarily under seal to allow parties to review for confidentiality.

The ruling is the second victory for the DOJ in as many weeks. In a Jan. 23 decision , Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied Aetna’s $37 billion plan to purchase Humana, following a month-long trial that began in early December. Judge Bates ruled the consolidation would violate antitrust laws and reduce competition.

agallegos@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @legal_med

Ads