Cigna-Express Scripts deal needs congressional oversight, House Democrat says
A leading House Democrat on Wednesday pushed the House Energy and Commerce Committee to look into Cigna's recent $67 billion proposal to buy Express Scripts, calling on Congress to flex its oversight muscle on healthcare consolidation.
Citing the committee's responsibility to consider changes to the healthcare space and how they will affect consumers, House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) requested committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to call a hearing focused on the proposed merger, which critics say will bring in hefty profits for the insurer that aren't likely to trickle down into consumer savings.
Cigna said on March 8 it plans to buy Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., for $52 billion in cash. The carrier would also assume $15 billion in debt. The proposed deal follows a similar move by Aetna and CVS Health, which still needs regulators' approval.
UnitedHealth Group has its own pharmacy benefit manager, Optum Rx.
"Due to the scale of the proposed Cigna-Express Scripts and CVS-Aetna deals, these changes should be thoroughly scrutinized and understood by the members of this committee," Pallone wrote. "To best understand the matter, it would be in this committee's best interest to hear directly from representatives of the companies involved, in addition to other perspectives."
Pallone previously called for an oversight hearing into the Aetna-CVS Health deal in December. The Energy and Commerce Committee convened a general inquiry into consolidation within the industry in February, including a look at the Aetna deal.
This time, Pallone said he wants to home in on mega-mergers that blend traditionally separate lines within the industry, providers and carriers.
Pallone acknowledged that UnitedHealth has previously delved into the PBM space, but said the Aetna-CVS and Cigna-Express Scripts deals particularly concern him because of their scale and the market share at stake.
"The Cigna acquisition is likely the largest; Express Scripts is the largest PBM in the country, responsible for the drug plans of more than 80 million Americans, including Medicare Part D and Tricare," Pallone said.
A GOP Energy and Commerce spokesperson said the committee is considering the next steps following the February hearing and continues "to keep an eye on these issues and their impacts on the cost of healthcare."
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