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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bondi joins feds in lawsuit to block major health insurance merger



Attorney General Pam Bondi is joining an effort to block the merger of two of Florida's largest health insurers.

A lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, eight states and Washington, D.C., says that the $37 million deal for Aetna to acquire Humana would hurt competition and increase insurance prices across the country.

It's an odd move for Bondi to join forces with the federal government. Under her leadership as attorney general, the state has joined or filed several lawsuits contesting the Obama administration's immigration policy and Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Last year, she and Gov. Rick Scott sued the federal government over health care funding, claiming the Obama administration was "coercing" the state into expanding Medicaid.

“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,” Bondi said in a statement. “It is important that we do everything we can to preserve competition in these markets.”

In particular, the governments behind the lawsuit say less competition could hurt seniors and low-income families who buy health coverage from the insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, according to a court filing.

In a joint statement, Aetna and Humana said they would "vigorously defend the companies' pending merger."

Florida and the other governments' lawsuit, the companies contend, is incorrect about the merger limiting competition. The merger will increase Medicare options, they said.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the sale in February on conditions that Aetna expand access on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and the "fair treatment" of people with HIV.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2016 2:40pm]


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