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Judge rejects DOJ motion to delay response in CVS/Aetna case due to government shutdown

DOJ also filed a motion to stay the Affordable Care Act appeals case until after funding is restored.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Federal Judge Richard Leon isn't buying the partial government shutdown as a reason for the Department of Justice not to submit comments in the CVS Health and Aetna merger case.

Leon, on Friday, ordered the DOJ attorneys to "roll up their sleeves" and respond by February 15. The DOJ is required to respond to public comments on the CVS and Aetna consent agreement.

The DOJ also filed a motion last week to stay the appeals proceedings in case of a Texas judge who ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

"Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including 'emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property,'" the DOJ told the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. House has filed a motion to intervene in the appeals case and their responses are due January 17, said the DOJ, which added that it intends to oppose the intervention.

The DOJ has asked that its requested stay of the proceedings extend to the intervention motion, and that the deadline for responses be set ten days from the date on which funds are appropriated.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The partial government shutdown is affecting these two significant healthcare decisions, though the ACA appeal is expected to be long and drawn-out with or without government funding for Justice Department attorneys.

But in the case of CVS\Aetna, the two parties closed the merger on November 28 after receiving state and DOJ approvals. The company is already one, CVS CEO Larry Merlo has said, even as some aspects of integration are being kept separate, both by court decree and due to operation decisions.

Judge Leon's decision to review the case on antitrust concerns is unusual, though the federal judge for the District Court in the District of Columbia has the right to do so.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com