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Forbes: Anthem-Cigna Merger Bad For Obamacare

Forbes: Anthem-Cigna Merger Bad For Obamacare
(Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images; Jennifer Pitiguen/Dreamstime)

By    |   Friday, 24 July 2015 01:00 PM

A new report claims the merger of Anthem and Cigna could be bad news for Obamacare.

It was reported Friday that Anthem will buy Cigna, one of its rivals in the health insurance industry, in a deal valued at $54.2 billion. The merger will put about 53 million patients under Anthem's umbrella, the highest number in the industry.

A Forbes story argues that the deal could end up hurting the Affordable Care Act.

"One of the main goals of the Affordable Care Act was to restore competition in the health insurance sector," David Balto, formerly of the Federal Trade Commission, told Forbes. "This consolidation will reverse these gains of the Affordable Care Act."

Health insurance providers have already minimized the number of plans they offer in order to keep them more affordable because of Obamacare. The Anthem-Cigna merger will lead to even less available plans on the market — which could raise the price of premiums for consumers.

"In an environment where the scales are already tipped, we are extremely concerned about the market imbalance this creates for medical practices and patients," Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, Medical Group Management Association president and CEO, told Forbes. "This will do nothing more than inflate healthcare premiums and decrease payments to physicians in favor of insurance companies and shareholders' profits."

Aetna, another health insurance company, recently agreed to purchase Humana in a $34.1 billion deal. Other smaller healthcare companies have been swallowed up by the big players as well.

These recent mergers in the healthcare industry are causing some experts to worry.

"In our opinion, mergers in the health insurance industry would have an immediate and profound negative impact on the availability and affordability of health insurance for millions of consumers," American Academy of Family Physicians Board Chair Reid Blackwelder, M.D. told the FTC in a June letter.

"Recent actions by the insurance industry, with respect to the narrowing of physician and hospital networks, would only be exacerbated if a single insurer held greater influence over any potential market, state, or region — potentially separating patients from their physicians and community hospitals," the letter reads.

"Additionally, seldom does consolidation result in reduced costs for consumers. Bigger insurance companies mean increased leverage and unfair power over negotiating rates with hospitals and physicians," Blackwelder said in the letter. "More often than not, consolidation increases costs and reduces options for consumers and we believe this would hold true in the health insurance market."

Blackwelder called out the rate hikes that will hit Obamacare premiums next year.

"After two years of relatively stable premiums, rates will increase in 2016 by double digit percentages for individual policyholders, in almost every state," Blackwelder writes. "Premiums raised an average of 5 percent in 2015. We believe that consumers, physicians, and our health care system benefit from greater competition, not less, in the health insurance marketplace."

A report last week, meanwhile, said health plans under Obamacare have 34 percent fewer healthcare providers from which to choose at the consumer level —which can lead to patients either being unhappy with their doctor or having to drive a longer distance to visit the doctor.

The Supreme Court recently upheld the subsidies portion of the Affordable Care Act, which means Obamacare will remain on the books for now — much to the dismay of its critics.

"I think many of us are witnessing now the complete corruption of Washington, D.C., meaning the objective has been to corrupt the government and success appears to be, at this moment in time, in hand," conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said last month. "The left has the government that they've always wanted."

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A new report claims the merger of Anthem and Cigna could be bad news for Obamacare.
Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, anthem cigna, merger, costs
Friday, 24 July 2015 01:00 PM
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