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May 8, 2017

Anthem turns to SCOTUS in Cigna merger case

Daily Briefing

    Anthem on Friday announced that it will petition the Supreme Court to hear a case concerning its proposed merger with Cigna.

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    Case details

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) is challenging the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna, which would have made the combined company the nation's largest insurer by enrollment, in court. DOJ has expressed concerns about the proposed merger's potential effects on nationwide commercial networks that serve large employers, local commercial markets, and markets of individual plans sold through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges.

    Federal District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson in February ruled against the merger over anti-competitive concerns, effectively blocking it from taking effect.

    Following the ruling, Cigna filed a lawsuit against Anthem seeking to unilaterally terminate the proposed merger. In response, Anthem countersued to block Cigna from terminating the deal. A Delaware judge in mid-February issued a temporary restraining order that blocks Cigna from immediately terminating the deal. The court is scheduled to hold a hearing on Monday.

    Meanwhile, Anthem appealed Jackson's ruling to block the proposed merger. The insurer argued that the $2.4 billion in lower payments to health care providers the insurer believes it can achieve through its merger with Cigna should outweigh any potential anti-competitive effects the merger would have on the health insurance market.

    DOJ had urged the appeals court not to overturn the lower court's ruling, arguing that there is no compelling reason why the decision should be overturned. DOJ said there is evidence to counter Anthem's argument that the proposed merger would create efficiencies in the health insurance market.

    Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the lower court's ruling blocking the proposed merger. Two judges on the panel ruled to uphold the lower court's ruling, while the third judge ruled that the merger should be allowed to proceed.

    Anthem seeks SCOTUS review

    Anthem on Friday said it is petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case because it believes the proposed merger would result in significant cost savings. The company cited the three-judge panel's split ruling in the case, saying the third judge's dissenting opinion supports its claims that the proposed merger would benefit consumers.

    Anthem also argued that the high court should review the "1960s-era merger precedents relied upon by" the lower courts in the case, which should be "updated to reflect the modern understanding of economics and consumer benefit."

    Next steps

    According to Modern Healthcare, there is no guarantee the Supreme Court will hear the case. The high court typically receives between 7,000 and 8,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each term, but only hears oral arguments for 80 cases.

    If the Supreme Court does decide to hear the case, it could take up to a year for the case to be resolved, the Wall Street Journal reports (Livingston, Modern Healthcare, 5/5; Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 5/5; Murphy, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/5).

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