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Florida joins lawsuit to block health insurance merger

Florida will join a lawsuit to stop the merger of Aetna and Humana.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Thursday that she will join seven other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, and the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division in a legal challenge to stop the merger of the two health insurers.

According to the lawsuit, the merger would lead to “higher health insurance prices, reduced benefits, less innovation, and worse service for over a million Americans.” The suit says the two companies compete to sell a variety of plans, and that competition “benefits Americans who can least afford health insurance.”

“The merger would end this rivalry and deny consumers its benefits,” reads the suit.

Among other things, the suit alleges the merger would reduce the number of Medicare Advantage competition in 350 counties in 12 states. The threat, according to the suit, is most significant in nine Florida counties — Broward, Charlotte, Duval, Manatee, Martin, Polk, Sarasota, St. Johns and St. Lucie.

“Competition in our health insurance markets is crucial to keeping premiums down and the quality of care up, particularly when it comes to our seniors and other vulnerable populations, the individuals most affected by this proposed acquisition,” said Bondi in a statement. “It is important that we do everything we can to preserve competition in these markets.”

A coalition of consumer and physicians groups have repeatedly called for Bondi to investigate the mergers.

In May, the Florida Campaign for Consumer Choice launched a statewide petition drive to encourage Bondi to investigate the mergers of Aetna and Humana, and Anthem and Cigna.

The coalition said said hospital groups encouraged Bondi to reject the mergers since they could lead to a loss in competition. However, the group said those calls were not acted on.

In 2015, Aetna struck an agreement to buy Humana for $37 billion. Reuters in January reported more than a dozen state attorneys general joined the Department of Justice to look into the mergers.

Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia also have joined the suit.

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