As a longtime community advocate and state legislator in Orlando, I work every day to make sure that consumers in Florida have access to quality, affordable health care. The recent approved mergers of Aetna with Humana and Anthem with Cigna pose great challenges for Florida consumers.
While the idea of mergers to create bigger companies may seem like a good idea – the results can be disastrous. As citizens, we must demand that mergers like these are held up to the highest standards, and that the process is transparent, open and fair.
Although companies merge for a variety of reasons, the most important to them is that they increase their bottom line. Because of this, it is our responsibility to make sure that we keep up our standard of care, even while the insurance companies are working to cut access to health care for our hardworking Florida residents.
According to a health economics expert at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, “when insurers merge, there’s almost always an increase in premiums.” We are concerned that the increased market power post-mergers of Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana will lead to rising costs for Florida, when they are already seeing a rise in health insurance premiums and where things are projected to rise significantly in 2016.
We have seen in the past that mergers lead to consumers paying higher premiums, are made to suffer through limited networks and most importantly, they wind up receiving worse service. A proposed consolidation of health insurers, now under consideration by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, will affect millions of Floridians.
Mergers like these will do away with competition, which is a critical component of lowering costs, and promoting access and choice. These mergers will also create new, dominant insurance entities that have no incentive to improve care.
According to industry experts, these mergers could “undercut” the critical innovation efforts needed to improve health care. This would not only harm consumers as insurers compete less with providers to offer new insurance products, but a concentrated insurance market like this often has less innovative offerings.
Additionally, with less competition to bring innovative health care to customers, we will likely see a decrease in quality of care and a lack of access to innovative products that often deliver better care at lower costs.
Floridians already feel the pain from a lack of expanded Medicaid access in the state, but, with the mergers of five major insurance carriers, more Floridians will without a doubt see higher prices due to less competition in Florida’s health care marketplace. Over 88 percent of Floridians are clear in the message that the pending mergers are driving concerns up and competition down.
State Sen. Geraldine Thompson represents Senate District 12, which includes parts of Orlando and western Orange County.