Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning and thank you all for being here. I am joined today by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General [Bill] Baer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General [Sonia] Pfaffenroth of the Antitrust Division. We’re here to announce a major step in the Justice Department’s ongoing work to protect the interests of American consumers and preserve competition in American markets.
In July of 2015, four of the so-called “Big Five” American health insurers announced plans to significantly consolidate the American health insurance industry. Aetna announced that it intended to acquire Humana and Anthem announced that it intended to acquire Cigna. We have carefully considered the impact these acquisitions would have on the competitiveness of the multi-trillion-dollar American health insurance industry – and, therefore, on the ability of individual Americans to access quality, affordable health care. Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice is suing to block both Aetna’s acquisition of Humana and Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna.
If allowed to proceed, these mergers would fundamentally reshape the health insurance industry. They would leave much of the multi-trillion dollar health insurance industry in the hands of three mammoth insurance companies, drastically constricting competition in a number of key markets that tens of millions of Americans rely on to receive health care. Among other consequences, the number of health insurance options available to nationwide employers would shrink from four to three. Two of the largest and fastest-growing providers of Medicare Advantage plans, which millions of seniors rely on for crucial medical coverage, would combine into just one. And competition would be substantially reduced for hundreds of thousands of families and individuals who buy insurance on the public exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act. If these mergers were to take place, the competition among these insurers that has pushed them to provide lower premiums, higher quality care and better benefits would be eliminated.
Now, these mergers may increase the profits of Aetna and Anthem. But they would do so at the expense of consumers, employers and health professionals across the country, inflicting costs that cannot be measured in dollars alone. For most Americans, health insurance is not a luxury, but a necessity. It ensures that every American can get the care, the procedures and the prescriptions they need to live healthy and productive lives. It helps to provide economic security and peace of mind, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. And, in some cases, health insurance can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. If the “Big Five” were to become the “Big Three,” not only the bank accounts of the American people would suffer – but also the American people themselves.
The actions we are taking today should serve as a reminder that the Department of Justice is committed to upholding our country’s antitrust laws and safeguarding the principles of economic freedom they were enacted to defend. When the facts lead us to conclude that a merger will reduce competition, restrict choice and harm consumers, we will not hesitate to intervene. We will not shy away from complex cases. We will protect the interests of the American people.
At this time, I’d like to introduce Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General [Bill] Baer, who will provide additional details on today’s filing.