Republican lawmakers and their friends in Washington’s conservative think tanks have put forth another reason Americans should hate Obamacare: it’s making the country’s biggest insurance companies gobble each other up. If the recently announced deals actually happen, they say, we’ll have fewer insurance choices.
When the CEOs of Aetna and Humana announced a few days ago that they had agreed to a deal in which Aetna will pay $37 billion for Louisville-based Humana, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pointed the finger of blame straight at Obamacare.
"This morning’s announcement, as I predicted during the debate five years ago, is the inevitable result of Obamacare’s push toward consolidation as doctors, hospitals, and insurers merge in response to an ever-growing government," McConnell said on July 3.
Added Edmund Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation: “The incentives are in there for consolidation. For all the talk about competition, it’s really much more about consolidating everything so the government can better manage it.”
You can’t expect McConnell and Haislmaier to pass up an opportunity to reinforce their false meme that Obamacare represents a government takeover of health care. Their sound bites undoubtedly will resonate with the GOP’s base.
The reality, though, is that Aetna’s proposed acquisition of Humana and Anthem’s $54 billion bid for Cigna—and UnitedHealthcare's reported interest in Cigna—is McConnell’s and Haislmaier’s beloved free market at work.
And in an ironic twist, the GOP’s insistence that billions of Medicare dollars must flow through private insurers is a major factor in the recent flurry of M&A announcements. It might ultimately even mean that Kentucky could lose thousands of good-paying jobs as Aetna’s executives begin laying off employees they consider redundant.
There are three big reasons for the recent spate of corporate marriage proposals in the health insurance business, and not one of them has anything to do with Obamacare.