A lawsuit filed Monday by the Medical Society of New Jersey has had no effect nor will it have an effect on UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of Oxford Health Plans, said UnitedHealth spokesman Mark Lindsay. The $4.9 billion merger, which created New Jersey's third-largest health insurer, was completed July 29 after winning approvals from state and federal regulators, including New Jersey's Banking and Insurance Department Commissioner Holly Bakke. But on Monday, the 8,500-physician medical society filed a civil action in Mercer County Superior Court seeking a statutory stay on Bakke's approval and a trial in which a judge would have to review the merger. The court has taken no action in response to the filing.
"We are unaware of any decision that has or will adversely affect the merger, which has already taken place," Lindsay said, asserting that it is legally impossible to stay a merger that has been completed. "This blatant effort to use the court system as an instrument of public relations does not serve the interests of the citizens of New Jersey," Lindsay said. The medical group stands by its original assertion that Bakke's approval -- and hence, completion of the merger -- was automatically stayed when the complaint was filed with the court, Robert Conroy, an attorney for the doctor's group, said in a subsequent interview. In an e-mail news alert Monday, Modern Healthcare incorrectly reported that a stay had been granted by a judge. At the time, officials at UnitedHealth and Oxford had not responded to repeated phone calls requesting comment on the suit. -- by Laura B. Benko