California will be key state in fight over health insurer mergers

Deals face scrutiny from consumer advocates concerned they may not mean affordable care
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With large health insurance mergers looming on the horizon, California may soon house nearly half of the health insurance market. So consumer advocates are putting a lot of pressure on regulators in California as well as a dozen other key states to scrutinize the deals amid concerns they will lead to fewer choices and higher costs, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.

Groups have urged state regulators to carefully review the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna deals, specifically asking that they not allow insurers to increase their rates too quickly, require them to expand their provider networks, and still mandate that they meet state regulations that require them to continuously improve patient care, the article says. Many industry analysts expect these acquisitions to ultimately win approval, but not before a fight over what concessions must be made.

California's Department of Managed Healthcare recently determined that four of Aetna's rate increases in the past two years were unreasonable, but state officials have no authority to stop health insurance rate increases, so Aetna has gone ahead with each increase regardless, the LA Times adds.

Additionally, officials also want to make sure patients can find a doctor and get timely care, and as health plans narrow their provider networks, many consumers have complained that they have lost access to their longtime doctors, the article says.

Californians, however, may not have to rely on one of the newly merged insurance giants for their needs. For example, Oscar Insurance Corp. began selling plans in California on the ACA exchange, and it is challenging the larger providers.

To learn more:
- here is the Los Angeles Times article

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