The Medicare-heavy state of Florida has given its blessing to Aetna's $37 billion acquisition of Humana on the condition that Aetna expands its health plan offerings in the state's insurance exchanges.
Florida marks an important win for Aetna, given the several million Medicare Advantage and exchange beneficiaries the two insurers cover in the state. While financial analysts said they believe the Florida approval bodes well for the transaction to get the thumbs-up from the U.S. Justice Department, lawyers cautioned that not too much should be inferred from a single state insurance regulator.
“The Justice Department is appropriately the last word when it comes to this merger,” said David Balto, a former antitrust attorney for the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. He heads the Coalition to Protect Patient Choice, which has actively opposed the recent spate of health insurance mergers.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the Aetna-Humana deal after considering its merits for several months. A consent order imposed several conditions pending federal approval. Most notably, Aetna will have to sell exchange plans in five more Florida counties by 2018, a concession that would force the insurer to stay committed to the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, even though it has voiced some displeasure.
However, the state required no divestitures. Most experts, and even Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, expect the insurer will have to sell some overlapping plans to alleviate federal anticompetitive concerns. —Bob Herman