The American Hospital Association has sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department Antitrust Division asking it to investigate and perhaps block the proposed merger between Highmark and Independence Blue Cross in Pennsylvania.
The boards of both health insurers announced the merger in March 2007 but it has yet to be approved by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, which is expected to hold hearings on the matter this summer, said Michael Weinstein, spokesman for Pittsburgh-based Highmark.
Although the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission did not object to the deal last year, the two insurers must refile documents related to the merger with the agencies this month because the deal hasnt yet been finalized. This gives the Antitrust Division additional opportunity to investigate this consolidation, including seeking new information relevant to the concerns, issues and objections raised by a number organizations, said Richard Pollack, executive vice president of AHA, in the letter. Concerns include possible provider rate increases and fewer health plan choices for Pennsylvania consumers.
Weinstein said Highmark would not comment on the letter but noted that federal officials raised no previous objections. The combined insurance entity would have 7 million members and about $22 billion in operating revenue, making it one of the largest health insurers in the U.S. -- by Rebecca Vesely