Cigna defended its sale to Anthem in a court filing this week, saying it would benefit consumers by giving them greater access to affordable health care. The filing comes two months after the U.S. Justice Department sued to block the $54 billion deal.
Bloomfield-based Cigna complained, as Anthem did in July, that government attorneys used misleading quotes out of context from internal documents, and said it agreed with Anthem's view that the $48 billion deal would give consumers greater access to affordable health care.
The federal government claims that many large employers dislike Anthem and that doctors fear the company because its large customer base gives it leverage in negotiations.
The Department of Justice complaint says that although Cigna can't get as low prices from hospital systems and doctors in some markets as Anthem does, "Cigna competes vigorously with Anthem for large groups by offering exceptional customer service, innovative wellness programs that lower its members' utilization of health care, and provider-collaboration programs with hospitals and doctors.
By contrast, many large-group employers believe that Anthem provides poor customer service and is far less innovative. Soon after the merger was announced, two prospective customers complained to Cigna: 'We hate Anthem and you guys are about to become them.'"
Cigna's response, filed late Monday in Washington, D.C., said the company "admits that is regarded by several sources as innovative," and that its work to lower medical costs through collaborations with providers and wellness programs has "been well received by some customers and health care providers."
But, Cigna did not confirm the customers' complaints in its response, saying,"Cigna lacks information sufficient to form a belief as to the allegations concerning unidentified large group employers' beliefs because those responses can differ widely among a diverse set of large group employers in different areas and circumstances."
The government's claim also emphasizes how it hit bumps in the road, and describes the Anthem-Cigna deal as "contentious from the start."
The case describes a "bidding frenzy" in health insurance after Humana let it be known it wanted to be acquired.
"In a two-month period, Anthem made several bids for Cigna; Cigna made two bids for Humana; UnitedHealthcare made bids for Aetna and Cigna; and Aetna made a bid for Humana, which after only weeks of negotiation resulted in an agreement on July 2, 2015," the complaint says.
Anthem admitted it had made several offers for Cigna in 2015. In this response, Cigna acknowledges it talked to Humana executives on multiple occasions last year about buying the Louisville, Ky.-based insurer. Aetna signed a deal to buy Humana instead, and the Department of Justice is also challenging that merger on antitrust grounds.
Cigna said it also talked with UnitedHealthcare about that company's purchase proposal.
Cigna previously declined to talk about its interest in Humana, and the offer from United Healthcare, the nation's largest insurer, had not been previously reported. United Healthcare, while based in Minnesota, has substantial employment in downtown Hartford, and about 4,400 employees in Connecticut — more than Cigna, even though Cigna has headquarters in the state.
Anthem and Cigna agree in the filings that they have had some issues since the deal was proposed. While Anthem says they have discussed "certain issues," Cigna wrote that the companies "have disagreed over certain issues, including integration planning."
The Wall Street Journal reported the two companies were at odds as they worked on submissions to the Department of Justice, and were arguing over integration plans, particularly how much power Cigna CEO David Cordani would wield in the combined company. Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish plans to stay as CEO for two years if the deal is approved.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in November.