Tuesday Tidbits

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon this afternoon rejected the Justice Department’s effort to judicially block the vertical merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The Wall Street Journal reports

“I conclude the government has failed to meet its burden,” Judge Leon said. “The court has now spoken and the defendants have won.” 

In a highly unusual conclusion to the court session that underlined the magnitude of AT&T’s victory, Judge Leon urged the government to let the companies close their deal without further legal interference. 

The judge said he hoped the Justice Department would have the “wisdom” not to seek an emergency stay of his ruling, saying such a legal maneuver would be “manifestly unjust” to AT&T and Time Warner.  * * * 

The case marked the first time in 40 years that a court had seen a fully litigated challenge to a so-called vertical merger that combines companies at different links in the same supply chain. Such cases are considered more difficult for the government to win than the typical “horizontal” merger case, where the government challenges the combination of two head-to-head rivals and the loss of competition is more apparent. 

The court’s decision is good news for the vertical health care mergers now undergoing Justice Department review, e.g., CVS Health and Aetna, Cigna and Express Scripts, and Walmart and Humana.

The Hill reports that Department of Health and Human Services offices are meeting with prescription drug manufacturers for the purpose of encouraging them to lower prices voluntarily.

“We are working with stakeholders across the spectrum including drug companies, [pharmacy benefit managers], distributors, patients, health care professionals, physicians, insurers, etc., to respond to President Trump’s call to action and help patients pay less for their prescription drugs,” an HHS spokesperson told The Hill on Monday when asked about the meetings with drug companies.

According to Reuters, a new survey shows even though the ACA has required that in-network preventive services be covered at 100% since 2011, most Americans have not obtained those services. “Researchers looked at survey data from nearly 2,800 people over age 35 and found only 8 percent were getting all of the highly recommended preventive services with the greatest potential for improving health.”  As the old saying goes, you can bring a horse to water, etc. In the FEHBlog’s view, personal responsibility remains a key to good health.