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Florida doctors push back on Aetna-Humana deal

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Following Florida's February approval of the megamerger between Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc., three Florida physician groups on Monday called on the Florida attorney general to reject the merger.

In a letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the American Medical Association, the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association said the reduced competition resulting from the merger would negatively affect health care access, quality and affordability in Florida, according to a statement released by the Chicago-based American Medical Association.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation in Tallahassee on Feb. 15 issued a consent order approving Aetna's proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana on the condition that Aetna expand operations in underserved counties. The Office of Insurance Regulation had previously conducted a survey and found that there was no “strong evidence of an overall significant reduction in the competitive landscape of the private Florida health insurance markets resulting from this proposed merger,” according to the consent order.

But the physicians groups say the office relied on “flawed arguments that regulation can substitute for competition,” according to the AMA statement.

An AMA analysis released in September found that the proposed Aetna-Humana merger would conflict with federal antitrust guidelines in highly populated metropolitan areas across Florida. According to the AMA, 19 of Florida's metropolitan areas had two health insurers with at least a 50% share of the commercial health insurance market.

“Competition, not consolidation, is the right prescription for Florida's health insurance markets,” AMA President-elect Dr. Andrew W. Gurman said in a statement announcing the letter. “Less competition in Florida's already consolidated health insurance markets will lead to price increases, not to greater efficiency or lower health care costs. Given the negative long-term consequences of the proposed merger, any remedy short of rejection would not adequately protect 2.4 million people in Florida,” he said, referring to the number of people covered by the four licensed Humana companies in the state.