Trending News Today: Health Insurance Merger Blocked on Antitrust Grounds

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

US District Judge John Bates blocked the proposed merger of Aetna Inc and Humana Inc on antitrust grounds. The challenge to the $37 billion merger was among the last major law enforcement actions taken by Obama Administration antitrust officials, reported The Wall Street Journal. In an opinion filed Monday, Bates said federal regulation would most likely be insufficient in preventing the merged firm from raising prices or reducing benefits. Although the decision can be appealed, the outcome could have substantial ramifications on Americans purchasing Medicare and private Medicare Advantage coverage, according to USA Today. “We are reviewing the opinion now and giving serious consideration to an appeal, after putting forward a compelling case,” said TJ Crawford, a spokesman for Aetna. The merger agreement will expire February 15, 2017.

If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed, coal miners who survived black lung cancer could potentially lose their health benefits, according to NPR. Approximately 38,000 miners or eligible survivors are currently receiving black lung benefits. The benefits are compensation for physical damage sustained while these individuals did their job. Currently, the ACA includes special provisions that make the process of getting black lung benefits easier for coal miners, NPR reported. However, if the ACA is repealed without a replacement, gaining the benefits could become much more challenging. Furthermore, cases that were approved after the ACA went into effect could be reopened, leaving the miners or survivors vulnerable to losing benefits.

As Republicans in Congress work to dismantle the ACA, along with President Donald Trump signing an executive order weakening its provisions, health insurance exchange officials in Washington, DC, are rushing to sign millennials up before the open enrollment period ends January 31, 2017, according to The Washington Post. The DC Health Link’s website has notified users that the election of President Trump does not impact their ability to enroll in affordable health insurance plans for 2017. Since DC Health Link’s launch in 2013, uninsured rates in the district have dropped to only 3%, which is among the lowest uninsured rates compared with other states, reported the Post. The goal of the DC Health Link campaign is to reach young adults who do not think they will have serious health problems in the immediate future.