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California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones urges U.S. Justice Department to block merger of CVS and Aetna

News: 2018 Press Release

For Release: August 1, 2018
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones urges U.S. Justice Department to block merger of CVS and Aetna
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today issued his finding that the proposed merger of CVS Health and Aetna, Inc. would have significant anti-competitive impacts on American consumers and health care and health insurance markets. Jones formally recommends that the United States Department of Justice sue to block the proposed merger.

On June 19, 2018, Jones held a public hearing at which executives of CVS and Aetna testified about the proposed merger. Expert testimony was provided by a panel of academics in the area of health care competition, with additional testimony from consumer and medical provider representatives, and members of the public. Reports prepared by the expert witnesses and comment letters from members of the public, as well as the hearing transcript, are available on the California Department of Insurance website. Jones reached his findings and recommendation regarding the proposed merger after he and the Department of Insurance conducted an in-depth review and analysis of the testimony, studies, and written comments.

Jones found that the proposed merger poses competitive concerns in the Medicare Part D market, where both companies currently compete, as well as in the highly-concentrated market for Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) services, and in the retail pharmacy market. These anti-competitive impacts pose a risk of higher costs for California consumers.

"The proposed merger of CVS and Aetna will significantly reduce competition in the PBM and Medicare Part D markets, affecting millions of health care consumers throughout the country," said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "A merger of this size and type, according to experts on health insurer and health care mergers, will likely lead to increased prices and decreased quality. Further, partial divestiture or other remedies traditionally used by the Department of Justice will not adequately protect consumers or address the adverse consequences of a merger of CVS and Aetna. Traditional methods to avoid market concentration will not address potential impacts on service quality, the power to charge excessive rates, or the creation of barriers to block a potential market participant with the resources to enter into new markets.

Finally, the CVS-Aetna merger will eliminate Aetna as an important potential competitor in the PBM market. In the present health insurance and health care markets, it is impossible to create de novo a PBM competitor with the strength, experience, and provider relationships that Aetna has established. Loss of Aetna as a potential competitor in the PBM market is an irreplaceable loss of competition because of the extraordinary concentration of the PBM market and high barriers to entry. If there are any other entities considering entry into the PBM market, they will now have to enter the market in conjunction with a health insurer. Single entry PBMs will no longer be feasible to compete with these behemoths.

For these reasons, I conclude that the proposed merger of CVS and Aetna will have anti-competitive effects and not be in the interest of consumers or health insurance and health care markets in California and nationally. The CVS and Aetna merger will harm Californians and our health insurance market, and is likely to increase drug prices for consumers rather than reduce them. The CVS and Aetna merger will harm consumers in markets across the United States. Accordingly, I request that the United States Department of Justice sue to block the CVS-Aetna merger."

Jones' findings and recommendations are contained in a detailed, comprehensive 15 page letter formally submitted today to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has an open investigation regarding the proposed merger.

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The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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