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Consumer Groups Continue to Raise the Alarm on Health Insurance Mergers

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade was nominated by Governor Dannel Malloy earlier this year.
Governor Dannel Malloy
Office of Gov. Dannel Malloy
Katharine Wade with Governor Dannel Malloy at her appointment as Insurance Commissioner

The body that represents Connecticut doctors said it’s shocked and deeply concerned about the decision of the state’s insurance department to raise no objection to a proposed mega-merger. The Connecticut State Medical Society has issued a Freedom of Information Act request over the Aetna-Humana case.

Meanwhile, a consumer group allied with the Society is renewing calls for Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade to recuse herself from the Cigna-Anthem merger review, because of her ties to the company.

Two huge mergers are currently going on in the health insurance world: Hartford-based Aetna wants to take over Humana, and Indiana’s Anthem is buying Cigna, based in Bloomfield.

Connecticut’s insurance department is taking the lead in reviewing the Anthem-Cigna tie-up. It’s promised a public hearing on the case later this year, and has published all of Anthem’s filing documents on its website.

But things have been a little different when it comes to Aetna and Humana.

“We’re distressed over the decision and shocked over the process,” said Matthew Katz, the president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.

Back in January, the insurance department was asked in a confidential filing to review the impact of the Aetna-Humana merger on the market in Connecticut. Because Humana has very few customers in the state, and because Aetna is the one doing the acquiring, it raised no objection, and no public hearing was required.

Katz said the department should still have opened up the process.

"We have giants becoming goliaths in these mergers," he told WNPR, "and the public interest and good must be considered, should be considered. And the public should have a voice and a right to participate."

He's also unhappy the decision was only made public late in May, five months after it was made.

The Society has filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for any and all information used by the insurance department in making its determination.

The Aetna-Humana merger is also being reviewed by 26 other states and the Department of Justice.

Aetna’s CEO won't say whether his company will remain headquartered in Hartford if the deal goes through.

The Connecticut Citizens Action Group has renewed calls for the state’s insurance commissioner, Katharine Wade, to recuse herself from considering the Cigna-Anthem merger. Wade is a former Cigna employee, and her husband still works for the company.

She first faced demands last year that she not be involved in the department’s review of the merger case. But at that time she refused, saying she didn’t believe she had a conflict of interest. Now CCAG is circulating a petition, calling on Governor Dannel Malloy to replace Wade.

An article in the International Business Times has also drawn attention to donations that Cigna made to Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign and the Democratic Governors Association ahead of Wade’s appointment.

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

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