5 updates from the CVS-Aetna hearings

A federal judge wrapped up two days of hearings on CVS Health's $69 billion takeover of Aetna and scheduled more oral arguments on the deal in July, according to the CT Mirror.

Five updates from the hearings:

1. On the first day of hearings, June 4, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon accused the Department of Justice of keeping him "in the dark, kind of like a mushroom" in terms of how CVS and Aetna were moving forward with their deal despite the fact his approval of the settlement was pending.

2. Three witnesses testified during the first day. One, who represented the American Medical Association, said despite Aetna's sale of its Medicare Part D business, CVS' acquisition of Aetna would further consolidate the health insurance market and lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for consumers. The AMA has long been opposed to the combination.

3. On the second day of hearings, June 5, witnesses representing CVS and the Department of Justice were called to the stand. Mr. Leon said he was skeptical about Aetna's sale of its Medicare Part D business to WellCare Health Plans and questioned if it alleviated all antitrust concerns, according to the CT Mirror.

4. CVS' witness Lawrence Wu, a former Federal Trade Commission staff economist, argued the merger would not impede competition. He also said the combined company could lower markups to drug prices and increase rural healthcare access through CVS' "Minute Clinics."

5. Still, Mr. Leon claimed the deal gives CVS an unfair advantage because it gains new clients through buying Aetna, who will favor CVS over other pharmacy benefit managers. Mr. Leon could force the Department of Justice to renegotiate its agreement with CVS and Aetna, or he could force the Justice Department to challenge the merger, policy experts told the CT Mirror.

More articles on payers:
Anthem to cover some WellStar services, state order says
Q&A: Allina Health | Aetna CEO on the joint venture's first year
UPMC backpedals on controversial prepayment policy

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