A U.S. judge blocked on Monday health insurer Aetna Inc’s proposed $34 billion acquisition of smaller peer Humana Inc, raising the stakes for rival Anthem Inc as it battles to close a $54 billion deal to buy Cigna Corp.
The ruling is another victory for the U.S. Justice Department, whose antitrust enforcement became much more aggressive during former U.S. President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, which ended last week.
Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, and a Republican-controlled legislature are seeking to undo much of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The law reshaped the U.S. healthcare industry by mandating health insurance and creating online exchanges where consumers can shop for individual policies and get subsidies.
Aetna, Humana, Anthem and Cigna had cited Obamacare as one of the main reasons their industry needed to consolidate to cope with the costs of expanding coverage. Their shares ended trading on Monday at levels that suggested that investors continued to see little chance that the two mergers would happen.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit last July to block Aetna’s acquisition of Humana and Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna, arguing that the two deals would lead to higher prices.
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