The American Medical Association urged the U.S. Department of Justice this week to reject the merger of Anthem and Cigna after court documents showed Anthem is holding out hope that the agency under the Trump administration will approve the deal.
In a letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder, AMA CEO Dr. James Madara said he was alarmed that Anthem sees this “new DOJ” as a way for the $54 billion merger to gain approval and that politics should "play no role in the enforcement of antitrust laws."
Madara said if the DOJ is swayed to approve the merger, it would cause “irreparable harm to the integrity of the federal courts” in their role to protect against anticompetitive deals.
In early February, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the Anthem-Cigna merger, saying it would harm competition nationally.
But there are still questions whether President Donald Trump's administration could sway that outcome. Anthem attorney Glenn Kurtz said that Vice President Mike Pence supported the controversial merger when he was governor of Indiana, suggesting that Indianapolis-based Anthem hopes the White House can influence Justice Department officials, according to transcripts from a recent teleconference between the two insurers in Delaware's Court of Chancery.
Judge J. Travis Laster of the chancery court recently prevented Cigna from terminating the merger agreement after granted a temporary restraining order preventing Cigna from terminating the deal.
Some legal experts predict that Trump's DOJ will take a more hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement because of the president's business interests.
Several media outlets have reported Makan Delrahim, who lobbied Congress on antitrust issues related to the Anthem-Cigna merger and was recently hired as Trump's deputy counsel, is being considered to lead the DOJ's antitrust division.
Despite the DOJ's predicted support for mergers, antitrust attorneys still say there is little chance the Anthem deal will close because it's on such hostile terms with Cigna.
Cigna's lawyer said there's no way the deal will gain approval before the extended April 30 deadline so the insurer should be able to go free. A hearing in early April will determine if Cigna can lawfully terminate the merger agreement.