AMA says insurance mergers will raise premiums and hurt quality of care

health insurance merge
Four of the nation's largest health insurers are proposing to join together in two mergers.

The American Medical Association says the proposed mergers between four of the nation's largest health insurers will drive up costs for patients and hurt the quality of care.

In a study released by the physicians' trade association, the AMA argues that insurance competition would be significantly reduced in 97 metropolitan areas spread across most states. It's calling for the mergers to be blocked.

"A lack of competition in health insurer markets is not in the best interests of patients or physicians," said Dr. Steven Stack, the AMA's president, in a news release.

Stack said a merger between health insurance giants would result in "higher-than-competitive premiums" for patients and employers, while doctors may be "pressured to accept unfair terms that undermine their role as patient advocates and their ability to provide high-quality care."

Will insurer mergers raise healthcare costs?
Will insurer mergers raise healthcare costs?

In July Anthem (ANTX) reached a deal to buy Cigna (CI) in a $54 billion deal, while Aetna (AET) agreed to buy Humana (HUM) for $37 billion. If the deals are approved by regulators it would leave three major insurers providing most of the nation's private health insurance.

The AMA came out opposed to both deals in a statement at the end of July just after then Anthem-Cigna deal was announced. This study is the next step the group is taking to lobby regulators to block the two combinations.

The AMA study argues the mergers would exceed federal antitrust guidelines designed to preserve competition when major companies merge.

Spokespeople for the four insurers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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