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Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. said Friday that they have extended the end date of their merger agreement by six months, a sign that the health insurers likely underestimated the hurdles they would have to jump to close the deal.
The original end date of June 30 has been pushed back to Dec. 31, according to documents both health insurers filed Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Extending the end date gives them more time to obtain all the necessary state and federal regulatory approvals to complete the $37 billion deal.
“They entered the agreement with an idea of how long the regulatory process will take. Obviously, they didn't quite get it right,” said David Balto, a Washington-based antitrust lawyer and former policy director for the Federal Trade Commission.
“Antitrust enforcers have tremendous concerns over these mergers. (Aetna and Humana) misread the level of consumer and enforcer objections to these deals,” he said.
So far, the Aetna-Humana deal has obtained approval in 16 of 20 states necessary, although California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has objected to the deal.
The merger also must be approved by the Department of Justice.
Health insurers Aetna and Anthem won't have to tell shareholders how much money they send to tax-exempt political organizations, at least for another year.