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Physicians Charge Health Insurer Merger Not In The Public Interest
Date:5/15/2008

Department of Justice's enforcement action in Sierra acquisition was inadequate and should be rejected

WASHINGTON, May 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Medical Association, Nevada State Medical Association and Clark County Medical Society today announced they have filed joint comments seeking to reject the final judgment proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the acquisition of Sierra Health Services by United Health Group.

The three physician organizations filed comments to the DOJ and the federal court in the District of Columbia under the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act (Tunney Act) because the DOJ's actions are seriously inadequate to protect high-quality medical care from the anti-competitive nature of this merger.

"The acquisition of Sierra by UnitedHealth creates an unprecedented level of market concentration in Southern Nevada," said AMA Immediate Past President William G. Plested, M.D. "The merger permanently transforms the health insurance market in Las Vegas, allowing UnitedHealth to acquire a 90 percent share of the health maintenance organization (HMO) market."

"After an 11-month investigation, the DOJ's modest response to the merger left several hundred thousand people in Nevada's fragile health care system vulnerable to a health insurer with a near-monopoly in the HMO insurance market," said Richard P. Seher, M.D., president of the Nevada State Medical Association. "Contrary to claims of greater efficiencies and lower costs, consolidation in the health insurance industry, in fact, has been shown to raise premiums and decreased patient access to care."

Physicians charge that the DOJ's limited enforcement action in the merger fails to protect Nevada from:

-- inadequate levels of service and quality;

-- higher patient insurance premiums; and

-- one-sided, coercive contractual provisions.

The physician organizations urged the court to critically scrutiniz
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SOURCE American Medical Association
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