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Photo: Associated Press

(Bloomberg View) — A wave of consolidation is sweeping through the U.S. health insurance industry. Most recently, Aetna has offered to buy Humana, and more such mergers are on the way. That must be bad news for consumers, right? Not necessarily.

As a rule, less competition is bad, because it means higher prices — and that’s the last thing U.S. health care needs. But health care is a complicated business. The likely effect of these mergers on the cost of insurance isn’t so clear-cut. The Justice Department, in deciding whether to oppose these deals, will have to weigh a variety of factors. It’s possible, for once, that less competition might do consumers a favor.

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