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UHCAN Ohio Requests Department of Insurance Hearing on Proposed Mergers of Insurance Giants

UHCAN Ohio joined other consumer groups who submitted comments on February 10, 2016 to Insurance (ODI) Commissioner Mary Taylor requesting that the Ohio Department of Insurance hold hearings on two proposed mergers of health insurance companies: Cigna with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; and Aetna with Humana. The other groups signing on to the comments are Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, DC Local 37 AFSCME AFL-CIO, Consumer Watchdog, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group. 

We noted in the comments that Ohio has a “concentrated” market—meaning that a few insurance companies control a great deal of market share. Three health insurance companies control 84% of the individual, small group, and large group markets. As noted in the article we published in our newsletter of October 12, 2015, mergers tend to result in premium increases. Ohio already faces some of the highest health insurance premiums in the country. One of the major culprits of Ohio’s high premiums is the lack of competition among insurers, and these mergers will only make matters worse. 

We are also concerned about the Medicare Advantage Market. This is the market that serves Medicare beneficiaries who choose not to stay with “traditional” Medicare but to secure lower premiums in exchange for networks of doctors that are narrower than traditional Medicare. Aetna, Anthem, and Humana are players in the Ohio Medicare Advantage Market. The combined Aetna-Humana would have a 50 percent market in Medicare Advantage throughout Ohio, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, with Anthem also controlling 23 percent of the market. Along with having a dominant market share in the state, the Aetna-Humana transaction would substantially lessen choices for Medicare Advantage consumers in the following counties: Clark, Clermont, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, and Lorain. 

The day of the filing, ODI told the Columbus Dispatch that the Department does not have to hold a hearing, and that they accept written comments. However, this would significantly undermine ODI’s ability to impose a remedy on the insurance companies, which the statute says may be imposed after a hearing. The Department of Insurance has broad powers to look out for the best interests of the insured. And securing all necessary evidence and being fair to all involved clearly requires a hearing that is public and transparent.