Four House Democrats Question Anthem Purchase of WellPoint Health Networks
Federal Trade Commission Chair Timothy Muris should closely examine health insurer Anthem's proposed purchase of WellPoint Health Networks to ensure the deal would not affect competition in the insurance market or harm consumers, Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel (N.Y.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Max Sandlin (Texas) and Pete Stark (Calif.), all members of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Thursday, Reuters/Los Angeles Times reports. The FTC will review whether the deal is a violation of antitrust law (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 11/7). Officials from Indiana-based Anthem last month announced an agreement to purchase California-based WellPoint Health Networks for $16.4 billion in cash and stock. The combined company, which will use the name WellPoint and have its headquarters in Indianapolis, will have $27.1 billion in assets, 40,000 employees and 26 million members in 13 states (California Healthline, 10/28). The combined company would form the largest U.S. medical insurer, according to Reuters/Times. The four lawmakers expressed concern that the merger would "make it harder for Americans to obtain affordable health care," according to Reuters/Times. Lawmakers also said they worried about the two companies' strategies of converting not-for-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans to for-profit plans. WellPoint spokesperson Ken Ferber said, "This is a merger of two companies who have Blue (Cross) plans who under the rules of the Blue Cross Association do not compete against each other," noting that the two firms largely operate in different geographical areas (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 11/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.