Aetna Inc, which in August agreed to buy smaller Coventry Health Care Inc for $5.6 billion, on Friday said that antitrust regulators have asked the companies for more information related to their review of the deal.
Aetna said that the companies are still planning to close the deal in the middle of 2013. This is the U.S. Department of Justice's second request for information.
Antitrust regulators review deals like this to make sure that there would still be sufficient competition after the deal is completed.
For instance, Aetna competitor WellPoint Inc., which is seeking DOJ approval to buy health insurer Amerigroup Corp., in September said that it had received additional antitrust regulator queries and would sell its managed care operations in Virginia.
Aetna, which provides health care insurance for large corporations and also offers government-backed insurance for older people nationwide, is seeking to buy Coventry to increase its access to Medicare and Medicaid, the government program for the poor.
As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rolls into place, millions more people are expected to be covered by government-paid insurance, particularly Medicaid.
Coventry has nearly 1 million members in its Medicaid business and about 250,000 in Medicare Advantage.
Aetna has 18.2 million members in its insurance plans, including 1.2 million members in Medicaid plans and 443,000 in Medicare Advantage.
Aetna said on October 5 that it was re-filing its merger notification with the DOJ in order to give the agency more time for review before the 30 day waiting period expires under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.
Aetna and Coventry were not immediately available for comment. (Reporting By Caroline Humer; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Theodore d'Afflisio)