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5. Political Cartoon: 'Now That You Mention It'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Now That You Mention It'" by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

TRAVEL NO LONGER REQUIRED

It is likely that
Florida’s got its first case
Of local Zika.

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Summaries Of The News:

Marketplace

6. Insurer Mega-Mergers To Be Challenged By Justice Department On Antitrust Concerns

Lawsuits are expected to be filed this week to block the proposed Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana acquisitions, according to news reports.

Bloomberg: U.S. Said Readying Suits Against Anthem, Aetna Insurer Deals
U.S. antitrust officials are poised to file lawsuits to block Anthem Inc.’s takeover of rival health-insurer Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc.’s deal to buy Humana Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter. Justice Department officials, who are responsible for protecting competition, are concerned that the deals, which would transform the health-insurance industry by turning its five biggest companies into three, would harm customers, according to several people familiar with the situation. (McLaughlin, 7/19)

New York Times: Justice Dept. Will Seek To Block 2 Health Insurance Mergers
The proposed mergers would greatly reshape the health insurance landscape. The combination of Anthem with Cigna would create a powerful presence in the market to offer insurance administration to large employers. And Aetna’s combination with Humana threatened to further consolidate the market for private Medicare plans. (Picker and Abelson, 7/19)

The Washington Post: Antitrust Officials Reportedly Preparing To Block Insurance Mega-Mergers
Those involved in the deals have argued that the mergers would benefit consumers and shareholders, giving the companies more clout to drive better deals with hospitals and physician groups. But politicians, state regulators and the American Medical Association have raised questions about whether the deals would reduce competition and drive up costs for patients. (Merle and Johnson, 7/19)

USA Today: Obama Admin May Sue To Block Health Mergers
In the event of a lawsuit, a federal judge would decide whether the mergers must be killed under antitrust provisions — and although there's no guarantee the Justice Department will prevail, corporations often choose to give up instead of waging an uncertain, lengthy and costly fight against the government. (Bomey, 7/19)

Modern Healthcare: Aetna, Anthem Mega-Deals Appear Headed For Trouble
Antitrust observers and financial analysts have increasingly viewed the Anthem-Cigna deal as more difficult to complete because it would create a highly concentrated market for employer coverage. It's also unclear how Anthem would resolve issues with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. [Analyst Ira] Gorsky believes Aetna's transaction with Humana is more likely to withstand federal pushback, as long as the insurer can prove selling some Medicare Advantage assets to another buyer appeases anti-competitive concerns. (Herman, 7/19)

Reuters: U.S. Antitrust Officials Set To Challenge Anthem, Aetna Deals: Source
Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte said in a research note that she expects the companies to fight the Department of Justice, but that Anthem's and Cigna's chances of success were slim. Indeed, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters earlier this month that Aetna was prepared to fight the Justice Department. (Humer, 7/19)

Harford Courant: Stocks Slide For Insurance Companies Amid Report U.S. DOJ Readying Suits
A report that the U.S. Department of Justice is readying legal challenges to sweeping insurance industry acquisitions involving Aetna and Cigna sparked a strong reaction from Wall Street and little comment from the companies involved. The report ... sent shares tumbling as investors speculated whether federal regulators would block the proposed $54 billion purchase of Cigna by Anthem and the proposed $37 billion acquisition of Humana by Aetna. (Singer and Blair, 7/19)

7. UnitedHealth's Q2 Profits Beat Estimates But Insurer Reports Obamacare Losses

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical business growth helps Johnson & Johnson to also top expectations. And in other marketplace news, Intuitive Surgical reports strong second-quarter earnings.

The Hill: UnitedHealth Group Beats Expectations Despite ObamaCare Squeeze
The nation’s largest insurer performed better than expected over the last quarter, with a 28 percent increase in profits compared to the same time last year. UnitedHealth Group, which released its latest earnings report Tuesday, beat expectations on Wall Street even as the company continues to flounder in the ObamaCare marketplace. (Ferris, 7/19)

Star Tribune: ACA Exchanges Getting Even Worse For UnitedHealth
Government-run health insurance exchanges became an even bigger source of financial losses during the second quarter at Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group. The nation's largest health insurer said Tuesday that it saw higher medical costs once again on the exchange marketplaces, and increased projected losses for the year by $200 million. (Snowbeck, 7/19)