The American Medical Association has asked the Justice Department to take a close look at efforts by UnitedHealth Group Inc. to acquire PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. through a merger. [@@]
In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, AMA Executive Vice President Michael Maves says the effects of the recent merger of Anthem Inc., Indianapolis, and WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., show that the proposed UnitedHealth-PacifiCare merger will be a bad deal for the consumer.
“The market power resulting from such mergers redirects money away from patient care and into corporate profits,” Maves writes.
Maves asserts that most of the federal antitrust action in the health care field has been targeted at physicians. “The reality is that most physicians are in practices of 10 or fewer physicians,” Maves writes. “Therefore, physicians face a true David and Goliath battle when dealing with health insurers.”
Among the concerns about the prospective merger that Maves listed was what he termed “United’s single-minded focus on profits, that has resulted in 29 consecutive quarters of increased premiums.”
The savings that UnitedHealth, Minnetonka, Minn., reaps from mergers accrue to the company’s bottom line, not to customers or physicians, Maves writes.