Next month, Judge Richard Leon will hear from witnesses about whether the merger of the PBM and pharmacy CVS and the health insurance company Aetna is good for consumers. While the Department of Justice approved the acquisition with only limited divestitures, Judge Leon is skeptical of the deal, and wants to gain insights from witnesses who opposed the merger. He still has not decided whether to approve the transaction.
Three organizations have been recognized as amicus curiae in the case (meaning they are recognized as impartial advisors), and they have proposed seven witnesses who want to testify at the hearing.
The American Medical Association (AMA), which opposes the merger, named three possible witnesses: 1) Richard Scheffler, PhD., a health economist at the University of California-Berkeley, who also investigated the price and quality impacts of healthcare consolidation, 2) Neeraj Sood, PhD., a health policy professor at the University of Southern California who will testify that the proposed divestiture will not protect competition or consumers, and 3) Thomas Greaney, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law.
Consumer Action and U.S. PIRG named one witness: Diana Moss, president of the nonprofit American Antitrust Institute (AAI). She has written articles opposing the merger and will likely say that allowing CVS and Aetna to join forces will give them license to exclude rivals and engage in all sorts of anticompetitive behavior.
Finally, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation named three possible witnesses as well: 1) Hal Singer, a managing director at Econ One Research Inc. and a professor and fellow at a public policy institute, 2) Lawton R. Burns, MBA, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and 3) Michael Wohlfeiler, chief medical officer for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
All of the above witnesses are excellent choices-they are knowledgeable, dedicated to consumer welfare and ensuring that markets are robustly competitive, and concerned about the harmful effects of consolidation in the healthcare industry. Judge Leon should ideally hear from all of them-if needed, he should schedule a second hearing in order for the seven witnesses to have ample time to testify and answer questions.