A federal judge ruled on Monday that a $37 billion merger between the health insurance providers Aetna and Humana should not be consummated on antitrust grounds, siding with the Justice Department, which had been seeking to block the deal.
The court “mostly agrees” with the government’s argument that the deal would lessen competition for Medicare Advantage plans and health insurance sold on public exchanges, Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia said in the ruling.
Judge Bates disagreed with the company’s rebuttal, arguing that regulation would be unable to prevent the combined firm from “raising prices or reducing benefits.” He said that neither new competitors nor divestitures would be enough to attenuate the concentration in the industry from such a deal.
An Aetna spokesman said the company was reviewing the opinion and “is giving serious consideration to an appeal”
The ruling came six months after the Justice Department sued to block the deal, along with a separate one between the health insurance providers Cigna and Anthem.
Another judge, Amy Berman Jackson, has yet to issue a ruling on Cigna and Anthem, a merger that had been seen as the riskier transaction because the two companies have more overlap nationally.
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