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The CVS-Aetna merger heads back to court

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

CVS Health and Aetna officials next week will have to convince a federal judge in court that their closed merger is legitimate and that the settlement terms negotiated by the Department of Justice are fine and dandy.

Threat level: Judge Richard Leon, who gave the final seal of approval for the AT&T-Time Warner merger, likely can’t tell CVS and Aetna to unscramble their merger completely, said Andrea Agathoklis Murino, a former DOJ antitrust attorney now at the law firm Goodwin Procter. "But he can say the remedy was insufficient."

The details: The deal’s main concession was Aetna agreeing to sell its Medicare drug plans to WellCare.

  • However, that would mostly shift people toward another large player, and it wouldn’t address the antitrust concerns around stacking a health plan, a pharmacy benefit manager and pharmacies under one umbrella.
  • It's a long shot to send everyone back to the drawing board, said Tim Greaney, a former DOJ antitrust attorney who teaches at UC Hastings. But that doesn’t mean the terms of the settlement can’t change.

Go deeper: The problem facing the CVS Health-Aetna merger

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