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Health insurance mergers a concern for the majority of Floridians

A coalition of consumer and physicians’ groups have stepped up their calls for an investigation into two big insurance mergers.

The Florida Campaign for Consumer Choice on Wednesday once again called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate the proposed mergers of Aetna and Humana, and Anthem and Cigna. The calls for investigation come as a majority of Floridians expressed concern about the mergers.

“Mergers mean less access and competition,” said Dr. Mona Mangat, chairwoman of the national board of Doctors for America, in a conference call Wednesday. “The merger of health insurance companies will lead to less competition in the marketplace.”

And less competition, advocates said, could make it difficult for Floridians to find health insurance options.

“Floridians already feel the pain from a lack of expanded Medicaid access in the state,” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson, an Orlando Democrat“But, with the mergers of five major insurance carriers, more Floridians will without a doubt see higher prices due to less competition in Florida’s health care market place.”

In a May 5 letter to Bondi, the coalition said that the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, the Florida Medial Association and other hospital groups encouraged Bondi to “reject the mergers by Aetna and Humana, and Anthem and Cigna, as they presented a major loss of competition.”

Advocates said since calls to reject the merger weren’t acted on, the Attorney General’s office should “vigorously investigate the proposed mergers and their impact on consumer pricing and choice when shopping for health insurance in the state of Florida.”

Floridians appear to agree that Bondi’s office should look into the merger. According to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted on behalf of the Florida Campaign for Consumer Choice, 88 percent of Floridians polled said they were either very or somewhat concerned about the proposed mergers.

The survey found 19 percent of respondents knew five major health insurance companies — UnitedHealth, Anthem, Cigna, Aetna and Humana — are attempting to merge. When Floridians were given more information about the possible impacts of a merger, 77 percent said they supported calls for Bondi to investigate.

Public Policy Polling surveyed 832 registered Florida voters likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The survey was conducted using both telephone and internet polling methods, and has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

“It’s quite unusual to see such broad agreement in today’s political environment,” said Jim Williams with Public Policy Polling.

Last year, Aetna struck an agreement to buy Humana for $37 billion. Anthem announced in July it planned to buy Cigna for about $54.2 billion. In January, Reuters reported more than a dozen state attorneys general, including Florida’s, joined the Department of Justice’s probe into the merger.

 

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