WASHINGTON Nov 21 Anthem Inc and the
U.S. Justice Department dug in their heels on Monday in court
over whether the lower prices the health insurer expects to
negotiate after buying smaller rival Cigna Corp are an
efficiency that benefits customers or an antitrust violation.
In the first phase of what could be a two-stage trial,
lawyers for the Justice Department argued that the $45-billion
deal would lead to higher prices for big, nationwide employers
which need a broad network of services.
Anthem, which announced the deal to buy Cigna more than a
year ago, said the merger would create a new, bigger insurer
with the power to push down prices it would pass onto customers.
"The notion that these Fortune 500 companies are going to be
victimized here ... is not realistic," Anthem lawyer Christopher
Curran said in court.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the
District of Columbia may opt to block the proposed deal if she
decides it will hurt big consumers. The Justice Department is
asking her to declare the deal illegal under antitrust law.
"Efficiencies don't count if the only way you get them is
more market power," the Justice Department's Jon Jacobs said in
The trial is expected to end by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, writing by Caroline Humer and Diane
Bartz; Editing by Nick Zieminski)