As explained by The Associated Press, the U.S. government is suing to stop two major health insurance mergers, a move regulators say is needed to protect Americans from potential cost hikes and lower quality care.
The Department of Justice said recently that the combinations of Aetna and Humana, and Anthem and Cigna, would hurt competition that restrains the price of coverage and reduce benefits, among other drawbacks.
The Department of Justice wants to stop Anthem’s $54 billion takeover of Cigna and Aetna’s $37 billion bid to buy Humana, political website The Hill reported last week.
"We've known for a while that Aetna and Humana, and Cigna and Anthem, have wanted to merge, and I've commented before that these mergers represent consolidation in the health insurance sector, which would ultimately be bad for consumers because it does mean they have fewer options," says Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at the Independent Women's Forum.
"But one interesting aspect to this story," Manning adds, "is that consumers, especially who are buying Obamacare plans through exchanges, the competition in those exchanges isn't very meaningful competition."
Although the logo may change next to the plans, she explains, the plans themselves are very similar regardless of which insurer is offering them.
If the Department of Justice recognizes that competition is good for consumers, then Manning says they might want to consider some policies that would open up the competition in those exchanges, or at least make that competition more meaningful.
"The government has a role in anti-trust law," Manning observes, "so the government wants to generally foster a marketplace where there is some market competition."
But when it comes to health care and its affordability, she says, the misnamed Affordable Care Act is at the root of the problem. That's because these health insurance companies have been hurt so bad under it that they're trying to merge to recover.