In an effort to expedite her decision, the federal judge overseeing the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust challenge to Anthem and Cigna Corp.'s $53 billion merger will split the trial in two.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told the government and insurers on Tuesday that she will hear testimony about the massive merger's impact on national markets in late November before turning her attention to the Justice Department's concerns about local markets in December.
By splitting the trial, to be held in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Jackson could hand the Justice Department a quick win if they show adequate harm during the first two weeks of testimony.
Opening statements are set for Nov. 21, with national market testimony wrapping up by Dec. 2. The trial will take a one-week hiatus before returning to discuss local market issues, according to Jackson's order.
The Justice Department initially sued in July to prevent the merger over antitrust concerns. The agency has claimed the growing tensions between Anthem and Cigna show the merger won't create the alleged efficiencies the companies have touted. In a filing last month, the Justice Department claimed both insurers had accused each other of breaching their merger agreement terms.
But Anthem has persisted doggedly to close the merger and prevent paying a $1.85 billion breakup fee to Cigna if the deal doesn't close by April 30, 2017.
The Justice Department is also challenging Aetna's proposed $37 billion takeover of Humana. If both deals go through, the health insurance industry's top five for-profit companies will shrink to three: Aetna, Anthem and UnitedHealth Group.