Insurance company mergers

Employers display a wide range of opinions about the recent mergers of major health insurance companies.

Anthem, the country’s second largest health insurer, announced plans Friday to buy Cigna, the fifth largest. That follows news earlier this month that the third and fourth largest insurers, Aetna and Humana, would similarly merge.

“Large employers will have concerns about the merger between Anthem and Cigna because employers will be left with only three major insurers who can support large multi-state employers on a nationwide basis,” Brian Marcotte, president of the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), said in a statement. “Many large employers offer more than one national plan to provide employees with choice, cover provider network gaps and to have insurers compete on performance, strategy, cost management and innovation.”

Marcotte did not leave out the possibility of benefits for businesses looking to cut health costs, however, suggesting that more powerful insurance conglomerates might have more leverage in negotiating prices with providers.

The NBGH’s cautious approach in responding to the news appears to reflect the reality that businesses have different takes on the merger. A recent poll of 100 companies by Aon conducted shortly after the Aetna-Humana merger displayed the differences of opinion about the increasing consolidation of the insurance industry.

While 46 percent of companies believed mergers would result in “fewer health plan options for them and their employees,” 21 percent said it would result in cost efficiencies. A third said it would not have a great effect either way.

The mergers are part of a changing national health care landscape that has employers reassessing the plans they are currently offering their workers. Indeed, the Aon poll showed that 54 percent of companies are considering making changes to their plans in the near future, including shopping for a new vendor (38 percent) and supplementing traditional coverage with third-party vendor options, such as telemedicine (13 perc

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