Although federal antitrust officials are unlikely to challenge Aetna's proposed $1 billion buyout of Prudential HealthCare's managed-care business, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office is reviewing the deal.
Sean Connolly, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Fisher, confirmed that an antitrust review of the transaction is under way, because of complaints from the American Medical Association and other physician associations.
Connolly declined to provide any details.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society has "concerns" about the acquisition but has not formally asked for regulatory review, a medical society spokeswoman said.
In contrast, the Medical Society of New Jersey asked state and federal authorities in mid-December to investigate the transaction and take appropriate action "to protect consumers, assure a vigorous market and protect the patient-physician relationship."
"We will look at these complaints, but that's all I can say at this point," Connolly said.
Officials at the New Jersey attorney general's office, which is rumored to be considering a similar investigation, did not return phone calls.
The proposed deal would link Prudential with Aetna's managed-care unit, Aetna U.S. Healthcare, to create the nation's largest health insurer, with 22.4 million enrollees, including 18.4 million in managed-care plans (Dec. 14, 1998, p. 6).
The transaction is expected to be completed by early summer, although the timing could change if federal regulators ask for more data from the two companies.
"We have submitted materials to the Department of Justice," said Wendy Morphew, a spokeswoman for Aetna U.S. Healthcare. The company confirmed it had filed for formal antitrust clearance but declined to say when the 30-day waiting period would end.