Employers have a wide range of opinions about the recent mergersof major health insurance companies.

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Anthem, the country's second largest health insurer, struck adeal in late July to buy Cigna, the fifth largest. That followedthe earlier news that the third and fourth largest insurers, Aetnaand Humana, would similarly merge.

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“Large employers will have concerns about the merger betweenAnthem and Cigna because employers will be left with only threemajor insurers who can support large multi-state employers on anationwide basis,” Brian Marcotte, president of the NationalBusiness Group on Health, said in a statement. “Many largeemployers offer more than one national plan to provide employeeswith choice, cover provider network gaps and to have insurerscompete on performance, strategy, cost management andinnovation.”

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Marcotte did not leave out the possibility of benefits forbusinesses looking to cut health costs, however, suggesting thatmore powerful insurance conglomerates might have more leverage innegotiating prices with providers.

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The NBGH's cautious approach in responding to the news appearsto reflect the reality that businesses have different takes on themerger. A recent poll of 100 companies by Aon conducted shortlyafter the Aetna-Humana merger displayed the differences of opinionabout the increasing consolidation of the insurance industry.

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While 46 percent of companies believed mergers would result in“fewer health plan options for them and their employees,” 21percent said it would result in cost efficiencies. One-third saidit would not have a great effect either way.

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The mergers are part of a changing national health carelandscape that has employers reassessing the plans they arecurrently offering their workers. Indeed, the Aon poll showed that54 percent of companies are considering making changes to theirplans in the near future, including shopping for a new vendor (38percent) and supplementing traditional coverage with third-partyvendor options, such as telemedicine (13 percent).

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Jack Craver

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