Aetna-Prudential Deal Getting Close Scrutiny

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Hartford Courant

Aetna‘s $1 billion deal to buy Prudential HealthCare isn’t sailing through the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust review as quickly as Aetna‘s previous health-care acquisitions.

Aetna reported late Friday that the agency has issued a second request for information from the company, instead of clearing the deal in 30 days as it did for Aetna‘s U.S. Healthcare and NYLCare acquisitions.

Hartford-based Aetna said it is complying with all information requests and still expects to close the deal by June 30.

The American Medical Association and other groups have raised antitrust concerns about the deal, citing how dominant the combined operations will be in some markets, such as Texas and New Jersey. The AMA recently sent the justice department a report outlining its misgivings over Aetna‘s market power and contracting practices.

Aetna spokeswoman Joyce Oberdorf said her company has no reason to believe the federal request for more information is related to the AMA‘s protests.

The justice department, she said, “has asked for a wealth of information and nothing has given us any undue concern.”

Prudential’s Connecticut HMO has only about 2,500 members, adding little to Aetna‘s share of the market here.

Aetna executives told Connecticut insurance regulators at a Hartford hearing earlier Friday that the justice department has asked for market-share data broken down by market and product.

The Justice Department would not comment on its request.

Executives of Aetna Healthcare and Prudential HealthCare defended their companies’ deal at the sparsely attended Department of Insurance hearing.

Regulators asked some of the questions about the deal that have been raised by California-based Consumers For Quality Care. Peggy Shorey of the local Citizens for Economic Opportunity said more information is needed on the deal’s impact on quality of care and employment.

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