Last week, two of the largest health insurers, Anthem, the largest health insurer in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and Cigna, announced a mega-merger that, if approved, would provide health insurance to 53 million Americans.
This followed the announcement three weeks earlier by two of the other big insurers, Aetna and Humana, that they would combine, making them the health insurance provider to some 33 million Americans if the deal is approved by regulators.
Zenefits is closely monitoring these developments—and the many ongoing regulatory changes—and how they will affect the health insurance market.
For now, nothing. Neither merger will be completed for months. Both deals must be reviewed by antitrust regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice to see if their combining will reduce competition – and increase costs of insurance premiums. Anthem and Cigna don’t expect to finalize the deal until mid-2016.
If the Anthem/Cigna and Aetna/Humana mergers are approved intact, together they would have 32 percent of the 271 million health insurance consumers in the U.S. If you factor in the other major health insurer, United Health, which has nearly 46 million customers, that would give the five companies 48 percent of the market.
Economists have long disagreed over industry consolidation, and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for consumers. Airline and phone company mergers on the whole haven’t been bad for the public, but skeptics point to cable industry consolidation as one clear example where consumers have not fared well.
One unknown that seems to favor consumers: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) limits how much an insurer can spend on non-clinical services and quality improvements, thus limiting how much profit any one insurer can pocket.
While these mergers represent four massive companies and a large chunk of the market, at Zenefits, we offer health insurance from more than 700 carriers. Nevertheless, the impact these mergers may have on the larger market for health insurance could be big. That is why we will continue to track these mergers and other developments in the health insurance market, and advise you of changes that will affect business operations.