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Connecticut Legislators Urge Greater Transparency on Insurance Merger Review

A group of state legislators is calling on the Connecticut Insurance Department to hold extensive hearings on the the proposed merger of Cigna and Anthem. The department just signed off on the other big health insurance deal between Aetna and Humana, without holding hearings.

Bloomfield-based Cigna and Hartford-based Aetna are some of the state's largest employers. In addition, between them, Cigna and Anthem write a majority of health insurance policies in Connecticut.

Connecticut is the lead state in reviewing the Cigna/Anthem tie-up.

But so far, Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade has not indicated when she will hold a public hearing into that deal.

Representative Greg Haddad, a Democrat who represents Mansfield, said he would like to see plenty of access for the public with multiple hearings throughout the state.

"It's not enough for there to be a single hearing, located in Hartford, in the middle of the day," he said. "If we really expect consumers to weigh in on what the effects of this merger will be, then we should make that easy for them."

Haddad is among 17 legislators who have signed a letter to Wade, urging closer scrutiny of the deal. In addition to hearings, the letter also calls on the department to commission an economic impact study, looking at how the deals will affect jobs in the state, as well as the effect on the cost of and access to healthcare.

"When we're talking about -- in the case of the Anthem/Cigna merger -- that the resulting insurer will cover 64 percent of the covered lives in Connecticut," said Haddad, "with an even greater concentration in some regions, I think it's very important for us to understand what that concentration of power will mean to the market."

A poll carried out by Public Policy Polling suggests that awareness of the mergers is low among the general public in Connecticut. But the survey also says when people are made aware of the deals, more than 80 percent are concerned about their potential effects.

The push for greater transparency is also backed by the Connecticut State Medical Society, and by the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut.

For its part, the Insurance Department said all documents relating to the merger are made available for public review, and its website is updated regularly as new information is received.

The department said a public hearing is required on the Anthem application within 30 days after all information has been filed, and the commissioner will appoint a hearing officer from her staff to preside at the public hearing, once it's scheduled.

The department's statement went on to say, "the Commissioner has maintained throughout the process that the hearing will be held at a time and a place that will accommodate public participation."

The application is also under review by the federal government and 26 other states.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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