The Obama administration went to court Thursday to block two major health insurance mergers, siding with consumer advocates and medical groups worried that the consolidation of large national health plans could lead to higher premiums. The long-anticipated move by the Justice Department and attorneys general in 10 other states, including California, will at least temporarily prevent Anthem Inc.'s purchase of Cigna Corp., a combination that would have created the nation's largest health insurer. And it will stop Aetna Inc.'s bid to acquire Humana Inc., a merger that would have combined the nation's third and fifth biggest health plans. "Competitive insurance markets are essential to providing Americans the affordable and high-quality healthcare they deserve," Atty. Gen. Loretta E. Lynch said Thursday after the suits were filed in federal district court in Washington.
Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business section. Sure, we're all still in the throes of the "Brexit" vote, but you just wouldn't know it if the U.S. stock market is any measure. Stocks closed near record highs Friday following an encouraging June jobs report. Now let's see if the market retains its momentum given all the hazards that abound during this particularly tumultuous summer -- from domestic violence and weak corporate profits to terrorism and a still-uncertain Chinese economy. Payday loans: Starting Wednesday, Google will no longer accept ads from payday lenders.
Shelley Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, announced her decision Monday. As a condition of the approval, Aetna agreed to limit premium increases in the small group market and to allow greater state oversight of its rates. The company will also have to keep certain decision-making functions in California and must invest in various health initiatives. The proposed 35-billion cash-and-stock deal would make Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna a sizable player in the rapidly growing Medicare Advantage business, which offers privately run versions of the federally funded healthcare program for the elderly and some people with disabilities. The merger still requires approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc. said Tuesday that they were scrapping their planned 6.3-billion merger after a federal judge blocked the deal, saying the government had made the case that the combination probably would hurt competition in office supplies. The Federal Trade Commission had sought to block the merger of the last two national office-supply chains, contending it would allow the combined company to dictate the price of supplies, especially for corporate customers that buy in bulk. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said in a ruling Tuesday that the FTC met its legal burden by showing it was likely that the deal would "substantially impair competition in the sale and distribution of consumable office supplies to large business-to-business customers." He said regulators also succeeded in showing that blocking the deal would be in the public interest. Debbie Feinstein, who heads the competition bureau at the FTC, said the ruling "is great news for business customers."
Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section. Stock trading resumes today with investors still digesting last week's retail numbers. Department store companies reported dismal first-quarter sales and earnings, but government statistics showed that overall retail sales improved in April. Economists took the shiny retail numbers as good news following a sharp slowdown in job growth in April, which raised worries about the health of the economy. TV previews: The major television networks will unveil their fall schedules for advertisers starting Monday in New York.