Judge mulls using monitor to oversee CVS during court process

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk outside a CVS store and pharmacy in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S. December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge said on Tuesday that he was considering using a court-appointed monitor to make sure CVS Health Corp refrains from fully integrating with insurer Aetna while he examines the companies’ settlement with the government.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held the hearing as part of his review of the antitrust settlement reached with the Justice Department to win approval for the companies’ $69 billion merger.

Most judges approve consent decrees aimed at resolving competition concerns with no fanfare, and deals normally close before the judge rules. But Leon has written that he was “less convinced” than the government that asset sales made by Aetna would resolve antitrust concerns raised by the deal.

The Justice Department approved the merger of CVS, a U.S. pharmacy chain and benefits manager, and Aetna in October on condition that Aetna sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans Inc WCG.N. That sale was completed in November.

In a brief filed on Dec. 14, CVS said the deal had been extensively reviewed and urged the judge to allow the companies to continue integrating while he examines the settlement.

But it also pledged that Aetna would be run separately from CVS, including decisions pricing and product offerings, during the court process.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall