Consumer advocates and antitrust experts are urging state regulators to closely examine the proposed mergers of major health insurance companies, saying they threaten to leave consumers with fewer choices and higher prices (Source: “States Urged to Review Health Insurer Mergers,” New York Times, Nov. 20, 2015).
On Friday, David A. Balto, an antitrust lawyer and former federal regulator, asked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, composed of state officials, to create a working group to help regulators conduct their reviews. “It is critical that the insurance commissioners act within their powers to carefully scrutinize these mergers,” Balto said.
The remedies available to the state regulators are much broader than they are to federal regulators, Balto said. Regulators could seek investments in rural care improvements, funding for people who cannot afford coverage or limits on rate increases. The commissioners have “a tremendous amount of authority,” said Jay Angoff, a former regulator from Missouri.