Aetna and Humana, two of the largest Medicare Advantage players, this week will fight accusations that if they merged, seniors and people with disabilities in more than 300 markets would be negatively affected.
The U.S. Justice Department has claimed the merger would stifle competition and harm consumers.
In a trial that is expected to last two and half weeks, U.S. District Judge John Bates this week will begin to hear arguments debating Aetna's proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana. The Justice Department filed a request in July for a preliminary injunction to block the merger, alleging the deal would restrict competition in key markets.
Aetna and Humana vowed to “vigorously defend” the pending union. The insurers contend the Justice Department's allegations “do not comport with reality” and traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans compete with each other.
Aetna will have to pay Humana $1 billion if the deal falls through. A decision is expected by mid-January.
The Justice Department also has sued to block Anthem's proposed $53 billion bid for Cigna Corp. The trial for that lawsuit began Nov. 21 and a ruling is expected by the end of January.
If the deals are allowed to proceed, the number of national insurance providers would shrink from five to three.