CVS asks judge to block witness testimony in court battle over its $69B Aetna deal

CVS Health is still facing challenges from its $69 billion merger with health insurance giant Aetna, which closed in late 2018. While the deal was approved by all necessary state regulators and the Department of Justice, a federal judge is still mulling over the deal and looking at potential antitrust problems.

Now, CVS has asked U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who is overseeing the acquisition of Aetna, to prohibit the witness testimony of seven individuals in May. The witnesses were selected by health foundations and will be allowed to present opposition to the deal. CVS has called their arguments “irrelevant” to the judge’s decision in a recent court filing.

Specifically, CVS Health stated it has already resolved anticompetition claims, after Aetna agreed to sell its Medicare Part D business prior to being acquired by CVS. The deal is still being challenged in court, despite ongoing integration between the two healthcare conglomerates, after a lawsuit was filed of a civil antitrust complaint. The action led to a Final Judgment that Aetna would divest its Part D plan.

Six advocacy groups were among the public commentators on the deal during the court period and are being allowed to provide testimony against the deal. The groups include the American Medical Association, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Consumer Action and U.S. PIRG.

In particular, CVS has taken issue with the witnesses because they directly compete with CVS in multiple businesses, according to the court filing. According to CVS, its MinuteClinic locations and telemedicine offerings can limit demand in doctors’ offices and other healthcare providers, which AMA represents. AMA has been one of the most vocal opposers to the CVS-Aetna deal, arguing the conditions approved by the DOJ weren’t strong enough to protect against the reduced competition in the market after the merger.

“AMA opposes the CVS/Aetna merger because it will expand MinuteClinics’ retail footprint, scope of services, and hours––to the great benefit of the public but to the detriment of traditional healthcare providers,” the filing reads.

CVS also accused AHF as using its friend of the court status, or amicus curiae, to “undermine a competitor rather than to offer any relevant analysis regarding the public interest.”

Days after stating the seven witnesses should not be allowed to testify, CVS and the DOJ put forth a list of five witnesses for the judge to consider in favor of the deal. Judge Leon will decide which witnesses will be allowed to provide testimony.