- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut’s ethics panel agreed Thursday to continue its review of whether Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade should have recused herself from overseeing the proposed merger between Anthem Inc. and Bloomfield-based Cigna, a union that’s now being challenged by the U.S government.

The decision by the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board came shortly after the U.S. Justice Department announced it was suing to stop the proposed merger, prompting the state Department of Insurance to announce it was suspending its assessment of Anthem’s financial condition and corporate governance.

Wade is a former Cigna executive and her husband is currently an attorney at the insurer.

The ethics board now plans to issue a declaratory ruling regarding Wade, as requested by Common Cause of Connecticut, by Sept. 30. Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said it made sense to move forward with its review, a decision she said could change.

“There’s a lot of moving parts right now,” she said. “At this point, it made the most sense to follow the regulations and to take the right steps for going forward,” Carson said. “Depending how everything continues to play out, the board could determine that it is not going to go forward.”

The Justice Department also wants to stop the merger of Aetna and Humana. The agency said the proposed combinations of insurers would hurt competition that restrains the price of coverage and reduce benefits, among other drawbacks.

Attorney General George Jepsen announced Thursday that his office joined 11 other attorneys general and the Justice Department in filing the federal anti-trust lawsuit in hopes of blocking the Anthem-Cigna merger. After investigating the proposed merger’s potential impact on competition, Jepsen said it’s his office’s “firm belief that, if allowed to proceed, the merger would substantially lessen competition” and hurt the availability of competitively priced health care and the quality of care in Connecticut.

Wade filed documents on Wednesday with the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board, contending she has no conflict of interest that would prevent her from overseeing the proposed merger. Cheri Quickmire, president of Common Cause of Connecticut, said it’s important that ethics officials continue its review of Wade, despite the suspension of the Department of Insurance’s review and the possibility the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger might be scrapped.

“Regardless of what’s decided about the merger, there needs to be a decision taken about whether or not the commissioner had a conflict of interest and whether or not she was being open and forthcoming with the information (the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board) required to actually issue an opinion,” she said.

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