As health insurers push for expedited trials, a federal judge designates the Anthem-Cigna suit for random reassignment and calls for a "special master" to accommodate the discovery process with both cases.
Two U.S. Department of Justice lawsuits to stop the mega-mergers of Anthem with Cigna, and Aetna with Humana will be expedited to accommodate the health insurance companies' contractual deadlines, but they will be heard by two different judges, a federal judge has ruled.
Because the two lawsuits were deemed "related cases," U.S. District Judge John D. Bates with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., was assigned both cases last month.
The health insurance companies in both suits had asked for expedited trials at a hearing last week, however, and Bates sent the Anthem-Cigna suit back for reassignment, where it was handed to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, court documents show.
The DOJ suit alleges that Anthem's proposed $54 billion acquisition of Cigna and Aetna's proposed $37 billion merger with Humana would consolidate four of the nation's five largest health insurance companies, and harm consumers and healthcare providers by limiting price competition, reducing benefits, and decreasing incentives to provide wellness programs and lowering care quality.
The four insurers had sought trials this fall.
Aetna and Humana told the court that their case is time-sensitive because their contractual deadline to complete the deal falls on Dec. 31. Anthem and Cigna told the judge that their merger can be terminated by either party on April 30, 2017, if the deal has not yet been finalized.
The Department of Justice said it needed more time to prepare for the trials, which it suggested should be tried successively starting in mid-February 2017. DOJ argued that the insurers' self-imposed deadlines should not drive the timing of the trials.
How the Judge Ruled
"While the Court declines to embrace the specifics of defendants' scheduling proposals, it acknowledges their need for expedition and is inclined to accommodate their contractual deadlines to the extent reasonable," Bates wrote.