A federal judge issued long-awaited final judgment in the closely watched healthcare megamerger.
After an extended and atypical review, the federal judge tasked with signing off on CVS Health's nearly $70 billion Aetna acquisition has done so, granting final judgment in favor of a deal the merging companies struck with five states and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Determining whether this settlement is in the public interest was "no small matter," U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon wrote in his opinion Wednesday.
"Industry players, consumer groups, and state regulatory bodies have all raised concerns about CVS's acquisition of Aetna," Leon wrote. "The merger combines two healthcare giants. Its effects, for better or worse, will be felt by millions of consumers."
Despite the concerns raised by a wide range of outside parties, the record in this proceeding failed to undermine the parties' claim that the proposal is in the public interest, he wrote.
CVS and Aetna took the news in stride.
"CVS Health and Aetna have been one company since November 2018, and today’s action by the district court makes that 100% clear," the company said in a brief statement. "We remain focused on transforming the consumer health care experience in America."
There was no mention of the ruling on the Aetna website.
The DOJ conditionally approved the megamerger nearly 11 months ago, directing Aetna to sell its Medicare Part D business to WellCare Health Plans to satisfy antitrust concerns in that particular corner of the market.
Leon, however, made clear that his review shouldn't be seen as a rubber stamp. He invited non-parties to testify during a highly unusual hearing in June.
Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.
Photo credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com
The judge said his review process was 'no small matter,' noting that many stakeholders had raised concerns about the deal.
The final judgement comes nearly 11 months after the DOJ offered its conditional approval.