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Aetna, Humana shareholders approve health insurers' merger

Yet state and federal regulators still must sign off on acquisition

Both Aetna and Humana shareholders "overwhelmingly" approved the two insurance giants' proposed merger in separate meetings Monday--but the deal still faces hurdles in the regulatory review process.

Aetna's meeting, attended by about two dozen officials and employees, featured no questions and no debate, the Hartford Courant reports.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini reiterated the merits of the merger in a statement about the shareholders' decision, writing that the deal "will enable us to offer more consumers a broader choice of products, access to higher quality and more affordable care, and a better overall experience in more geographic locations across the country."

He also emphasized the complementary nature of the two companies' portfolios, with Humana's strength in the Medicare Advantage sector and Aetna's experience in the commercial insurance market.

Bertolini has made the same argument in committee hearings on Capitol Hill, telling lawmakers that he does not believe the Aetna-Humana merger will diminish competition in the health insurance market.

But some policy experts and healthcare provider organizations have expressed doubts, arguing that in the Medicare Advantage space in particular, Aetna's acquisition of Humana will further consolidate an already very concentrated market.

Groups such as the American Hospital Association also take issue with the pending Anthem-Cigna merger, which Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish has defended before Congress alongside Bertolini.

Meanwhile, both federal and state regulators are expected to closely scrutinize both deals. Yet after the most recent congressional hearing, some experts predicted that given the tone of the proceedings, the mergers may face less political opposition than originally predicted.

To learn more:
- here's Bertolini's statement
- read the Hartford Courant article

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Too soon for Aetna, Anthem to declare victory in merger review process
Aetna acquires Humana for $37B