(Bloomberg) -- U.S. antitrust officials are poised to filelawsuits to block Anthem Inc.’s takeover of rivalhealth-insurer Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc.’s deal to buy Humana Inc.,according to a person familiar with the matter.

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Related: 7 ways the Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humanadeals may chill policy

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Justice Department officials, who are responsible for protectingcompetition, are concerned that the deals, which would transformthe health-insurance industry by turning its five biggest companiesinto three, would harm customers, according to several peoplefamiliar with the situation. While the companies may offer to sellassets to gain approval for the deals, that’s unlikely to swayantitrust officials, one of the people said.

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The final decision on whether to sue to block the deals couldcome this week or next, another of the people said. The companiescould settle a lawsuit before or after one is filed.

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Shares of Humana and Cigna both fell sharply on the news. Humanafell 5.3 percent to $151.22 at 11:59 a.m. in New York, and Cignafell 1.9 percent to $130.62. Anthem fell 2.7 percent to$131.36, and Aetna fell 2.9 percent to $114.92.

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The Justice Department declined to comment on the review.

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“We are steadfast in our belief that this deal is good forconsumers and the health-care system as a whole,” T.J.Crawford, an Aetna spokesman, said.

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Alex Kepnes, a Humana spokesman, didn’t immediately respond torequests for comment. Matt Asensio, a Cigna spokesman, declined tocomment, and Bonnie Jacobs, an Anthem spokeswoman, had no immediatecomment.

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Deal skepticism

Any lawsuit would continue a string of merger challenges byantitrust enforcers looking to stop industry consolidation andwould deal a blow to bids by Anthem and Aetna to gain scale bysnapping up rivals. According to the terms of both tie-up deals,the companies have agreed to fight any government lawsuits incourt. Such a move would likely require months of litigation torescue takeovers that were struck last year amid a wave of dealsthat swept the industry.

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Aetna and Humana will probably fight any lawsuit in court, whileAnthem and Cigna are less likely to litigate against thegovernment, said Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners.

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“They’re obligated by the terms of their merger agreement, butthey both may decide to walk away,” she said about Anthem’s bid forCigna. “They recognize the probability is low, and there’s alsobeen a lot of conflict between the two companies.”

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For antitrust officials at the Justice Department, it’s standardpractice to prepare complaints against deals even in cases that areultimately settled with remedies like asset sales. But inrecent years, the department has shown an increasing willingness togo to court to block deals it believes could stifle competition,and for months antitrust officials have signaled theirskepticism about the insurer tie-ups.

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The Justice Department’s No. 3 official, Bill Baer, whopreviously ran the antitrust division and is overseeing theinvestigations into the insurer mergers, said this year that thetwo deals were “transformational” and represented a “game changer”for the industry.

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Competition concerns

The government’s concerns echo a broader sentiment within theObama administration that competition must be protected amonghealth insurers in order to deliver quality health care toAmericans. This month, President Barack Obama and Health andHuman Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell both cited theimportance of competition in insurance markets.

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In addition to the Justice Department’s antitrust division,state attorneys general also have raised concerns about the mergersand may join any Justice Department challenge, two people said.

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The insurers need approval from state insurance regulators inaddition to the Justice Department. Aetna has secured far morestate approvals for its deal than Anthem has, according to analystsat Wells Fargo & Co. Aetna has gotten approvals from 18 of 20states where regulatory sign-off is needed, while Anthem hasregulatory approvals in just 10 of 24 states, analysts led by PeterCosta said in a July 14 research note.

Fight lawsuits

The combinations faced criticism from the start from consumergroups worried about higher premiums as well as from hospitals anddoctors, who risk seeing lower payments from insurers that havemore bargaining power. In June, a group of Democratic senatorscalled for the Justice Department to stop the transactions.

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America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents thehealth-insurance industry, has said that insurers can counterthe growing pricing power of hospitals, which themselves have grownlarger through mergers, and deliver benefits to consumers.Combinations must still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, AHIPhas said.

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The $48 billion combination of Anthem and Cigna would create thebiggest U.S. health insurer by membership, topping UnitedHealthGroup Inc., with total revenue of about $117 billion. The bulk ofthe company’s revenue -- about 66 percent -- would come fromadministrative services sold to self-insured employers. Thecombined company would have about 29 percent of that market,according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Aetna’s $37 billion takeover of Humana would make it the biggestprovider of Medicare Advantage plans, the government insuranceprogram for the elderly. The combined company would have about 25percent of that market, according to Bloomberg, with about half its$115 billion in revenue coming from Medicare plans, Aetna hassaid.

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Bloomberg reported this month that Aetna was preparing to sellassets worth several billion dollars to resolve competitionproblems.

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